Brazil violated ex-president Lula’s rights – UN

A conviction for corruption that barred Lula from seeking another term in office was invalidated last year by Brazil’s top court

Brazilian authorities violated former President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva’s due-process rights during a corruption case that later barred him from seeking a third term in office, a UN panel has ruled.

The left-wing politician, widely known simply as Lula, has long claimed that his prosecution was politically motivated and was aimed at preventing him from running in elections.

“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,” Arif Bulkan, a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, said.

Lula governed Brazil between 2003 and 2010, having comfortably won elections twice, and left office with an approval rating of 80%. In 2017, he was sentenced to nine years in prison after being convicted of corruption and money laundering amid Operation Car Wash, one of the biggest corruption investigations in Brazil’s history.

That sentence was later increased to 12 years, effectively barring Lula from competing in the 2018 presidential election, in which he was the frontrunner.

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Brazil’s former president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, delivers a speech in Sao Paulo, Brazil, December 2021. © Nelson Almeida/AFP
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Three years later, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court annulled Lula’s conviction, ruling that former judge Sergio Moro, who oversaw the investigation against Lula and was later appointed justice minister, had no jurisdiction to investigate and try the case and could not be considered to have been impartial.

On Thursday, the UN panel confirmed that Moro had violated Lula’s right to privacy when he approved the request to tap the leader’s phone, the phones of his family and that of his lawyer, and then released the content of the wiretaps to the media before formally charging Lula with a crime. The panel also noted that a warrant to detain Lula for questioning had also been leaked to the media.

“The UN decision yesterday showed the shameful actions that were done to prevent me from becoming the president of the republic,” Lula tweeted in response to the UN’s ruling. “I don’t have to prove anything. Those who have invented lies against me have to prove it.”

Operation Car Wash was launched in 2014, after Lula had left office. The investigation began as a probe into graft and bribery within the state-run oil company Petrobras and was later expanded to include wider corruption in the highest echelons of power.

The ensuing scandal led to the impeachment of Lula’s successor Dilma Rousseff in 2016. She also denied all allegations, calling herself a “victim of a coup.”

Lula told RT in 2018 that there was “a conspiracy in Brazil between the media, the judiciary, the prosecution service and police” against him.

Investigative website The Intercept released a trove of documents in 2019, which appeared to show that Moro had broken the country’s judicial code of ethics by providing advice and tips to lead Car Wash prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol. Moro said the messages had been taken out of context, and that there was “no sign of any abnormality or directing of actions as a magistrate.”