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Monica Cunha

Monica Cunha

HRD, Founder
Movimento Moleque
Rio on Watch - Article

"Because if the state will kill you, who will protect you? What security do you have? The state has a witness protection program, but today the program is a failure. We can’t trust it."

Monica Cunha is a Brazilian human rights defender, advocating for children and young people's rights. In 2003, she founded "Movimento Moleque", an organisation gathering mothers whose children were threatened, attacked or killed by the police. Movimento Moleque is part of the Network of Communities Against Violence (Rede de Comunidades e Movimentos contra a Violência), an organisation supporting people affected by state or police violence and their families.

Monica started working with the Network of Communities Against Violence when her 15-year-old son, Rafael da Silva Cunha, was detained after a robbery. He was put under educational and correctional measures by the Rio de Janeiro Department of General Socio-Educational Action (DEGASE), in an institution hosting teenagers charged with minor crimes. After witnessing the poor conditions in the detention centre, Monica started speaking out against abuses committed by the security guards, police violence and discriminations against Afro-brazilians. After three years, Rafael was allowed to go back home but on 5 December 2006 he was killed by police officers in Riachuelo. No investigation was opened.

Because of her work, Monica has suffered threats, intimidation and verbal abuse. Also her younger son has been threatened.



The challenges and threats faced by human rights defenders in Brazil remain very high, particularly for those working on issues of land, environment, indigenous peoples, LGBTi rights, corruption and impunity. Many HRDs have experienced death threats, physical attacks, arbitrary arrests and lawsuits. The high number of killings is of particular concern and takes place against a background of widespread impunity.


Monica Cunha - #AtRiskInRio