In comments to journalists on Monday, Mr. Guterres said that he had been shocked by reports that a mob had entered and ransacked government buildings on Sunday in Brasilia.

But he said that he remained “absolutely convinced that Brazil can deal with this situation” and ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions.

Democracy ‘moves forward’

The democratic function of Brazil will move on”, the UN chief said, adding that “what matters is that the rule of law functions, and democracy moves forward”.

Mr. Guterres tweeted his alarm at the violent scenes in Brasilia on Sunday, and the UN Country Team there also issued a statement strongly condemning the assault.

Thousands of protesters – largely supporters of the country’s former right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro who narrowly lost a bitterly contested election in October, to his long-time leftist rival and former incumbent, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – breached Congress, the Supreme Court and parts of the presidential palace.

According to news reports, around 1,200 were detained after the riots, many supporters of Mr. Bolsonaro who believe without evidence, that the election was stolen. Some supporters had been camping out since the election defeat last year.

Mr. Bolsonaro left Brazil a few days before President Lula’s inauguration on 1 January, and is currently in the United States. He vigorously challenged the results of the 30 October run-off election.

Responding to accusations from the President that he had stoked Sunday’s violence, Mr. Bolsonaro denied doing so, and tweeted that his supporters had crossed the line of peaceful protest.

UN Secretary General António Guterres (centre) comments on the assault on Brazil’s democratic institutions at a press conference at the Palais de Nations, Geneva.

UN News/Daniel Johnson

UN Secretary General António Guterres (centre) comments on the assault on Brazil’s democratic institutions at a press conference at the Palais de Nations, Geneva.

Culmination of ‘sustained distortion’

In a statement released by his office on Monday, the UN human rights chief, Volker Türk, described Sunday’s scenes in the Brazilian capital, as “shocking”.

“I condemn this attack on the heart of Brazilian democracy”, he added, describing it as “the culmination of the sustained distortion of facts and incitement to violence and hatred by political, social and economic actors who have been fuelling an atmosphere of distrust, division, and destruction by rejecting the result of democratic elections.”

The OHCHR chief said accepting election outcomes following free, fair and transparent elections, was “at the heart of fundamental democratic principles. Baseless allegations of electoral fraud undermine the right to political participation.

Disinformation must stop

He added that “disinformation and manipulation need to stop. I urge leaders from across Brazil’s political spectrum to cooperate with each other to work towards restoring trust in democratic institutions, and to promote public dialogue and participation.”

During Sunday’s riots at least eight journalists were attacked or had equipment destroyed, said Mr. Türk, which confirmed what he called “a trend of increasing physical aggression against journalists in a context of high levels of political violence.”

He called on authorities to hold prompt, impartial, effective and transparent investigations into Sunday’s violence and bring those responsible to account.

 “My Office is ready to support the new Government in tackling the human rights issues Brazil is facing.”

‘Violent and lamentable’ scenes: Ambassador

Speaking at UN Headquarters on Monday outside the Security Council following the extension of Syria’s aid lifeline for a further six months, Brazil’s ambassador Ronaldo Costa Filho, said that President Lula’s administration repudiated the violence, in the strongest possible terms”.

He said the Government was grateful for all the messages of “support and solidarity” that had been received, including from the UN Secretary-General.

We are confident that the strength of Brazilian institutions will allow us to overcome the violent and lamentable incidents of yesterday”, he said, “and allow us to move forward within the strength of our democratic institutions.”