Revelations regarding a lack of impartiality on the part of Justice Minister Sérgio Moro during his time as a judge may have tainted the proposed anti-crime bill and given an opening for its critics to weaken the legislation. 

Judge Sergio Moro during testimony on the Comission for Penal Code Reform (Photo: Wikipedia commons)

Judge Sergio Moro during testimony on the Comission for Penal Code Reform (Photo: Wikipedia commons)

A package of anti-crime laws proposed by the Jair Bolsonaro government is facing significant changes by Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies.

Lawmakers have said that there “is not the climate” for some of the more severe changes proposed by the administration. This follows revelations by The Intercept that the bill’s chief architect, the Justice Minister Sérgio Moro, failed to be impartial in his treatment and prosecution of former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

The bill aims to give authorities higher powers in investigations, including cases of corruption, and to streamline the process through which investigators can share evidence.

It would also simplify the processes through which cases involving politicians that are protected by “foro privlegiado” – legislative immunity which prevents investigation of certain offices by police without a courts approval – can be prosecuted.

Corruption is a significant issue in Brazil, and the Bolsonaro government was elected on the promise that it would work to clean up the government. One of the goals of the anti-crime package is to act as the mechanism through which corrupt politicians could be targeted.

Moro gained a significant reputation as an anti-crime crusader during his time as a judge before becoming Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice. Moro was responsible for the prosecution of a variety of politicians with the 12 year sentence of President Da Silva being the most high profile.

Since taking on the role of Minister of Justice, Moro’s image has been tarnished by the revelations made by The Intercept who reported based on text logs between Moro and Operation Car Wash lead prosecutor Deltan Dallagnol. The messages indicate that Moro allegedly interfered in the investigation by giving advice and direction to prosecutors, thereby stepping outside of his role as an impartial judge.

Critics of the Minister have also pointed out his failure to take a firm stance on the alleged involvement of President Bolsonaro’s son in an alleged graft scheme as well as Moro’s change in position regarding illegal campaign contributions when political allies of his admitted committing the crime.

Politicians that oppose the anti-crime package have capitalized on these alleged errors on the part of Moro to significantly weaken the bill, cutting pieces that would put place further powers in the hands of investigators. These politicians say that the measures must be culled to protect the due process of those accused.

The anti-crime bill would change 13 areas of Brazil’s penal code. It would among other things provide police protection from prosecution in the event they kill in the line of duty, expand the situations in which DNA can be collected and tested, increase the penalties for a variety of crimes related to drug trafficking and corruption and make it easier for police to tap phones and well undercover influence individuals to commit crimes.

Proponents of the bill say that they expect that the Chamber of Deputies will attempt to block as much as 20% of the proposed changes.

Brazil’s chamber of Deputies (Photo: PMDB National)

Brazil’s chamber of Deputies (Photo: PMDB National)