The prosecution of Brazil’s former President, Luiz da Silva, violated his right to a fair trial, his right to privacy and his political rights, the UN Human Rights Committee has found.
The Committee, whose members are independent rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council, issued its findings after the former President – who’s commonly called by his nickname, Lula, filed a complaint to the panel.
Lula was Brazil’s President from 2003 to 2010 and a target in a massive corruption probe called Operation Car Wash.
Investigators uncovered corruption between the State-owned oil and petrol company, Petrobrás, several construction companies, and various Brazilian politicians, relating to secret campaign funds.
In July 2017, Lula was sentenced to nine years in prison; this was later increased to 12 years, effectively preventing him from standing in new presidential elections.
The Human Rights Committee noted that wiretaps of Lula and his family had been approved and released to the media before formal charges were made.
This and other incidents contravened his right to privacy and his right to the presumption of innocence, the Committee said.
Lacking due process
“While States have a duty to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption and to keep the population informed, especially when a former head of State is concerned, such actions must be conducted fairly and respect due process guarantees,” said Committee member Arif Bulkan.
The Supreme Federal Court quashed Lula’s sentence in 2021, ruling that former judge Sergio Moro – who had overseen the initial corruption trial – had no jurisdiction to investigate and try the cases, and annulled the investigation on the basis that the former judge, was not considered to be impartial.
“Although the Supreme Federal Court vacated Lula’s conviction and imprisonment in 2021, these decisions were not timely and effective enough to avoid or redress the violations,” Mr. Bulkan said.
While States have a duty to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption and to keep the population informed, especially when a former head of State is concerned, such actions must be conducted fairly and respect due process guarantees.Arif Bulkan
The committee found that the conduct and other public acts of former judge Moro violated Lula’s right to be tried by an impartial tribunal; and that the actions and public statements by the former judge, and the prosecutors, were also a violation of his right to his presumption of innocence.
These procedural violations rendered Lula’s prohibition to run for president arbitrary, the committee ruled, and therefore in violation of his political rights, including his right to run for office.
It urged the Brazilian Government, to ensure that any further criminal proceedings against Lula, comply with due process guarantees and to prevent similar violations in the future.