By Richard Mann, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – After 22 years of experience in the federal judiciary, where he acted in prominent cases such as the Banestado and Lava Jato trials, the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Sergio Moro, said yesterday, 13th, that the flaws in the criminal procedural system have enabled influential defendants to employ lawyers who, “with some influence before the courts of justice”, have been able to delay a final conviction of their clients.
“The procedural appeals mechanism was so generous that anyone who succeeded in manipulating it was never punished. An absurdly inequitable procedural system,” the minister said.
“Typically, those in a position to manipulate the system were people with abundant financial resources to hire excellent lawyers with a certain amount of influence in the courts of justice,” the minister added, suggesting that as a result, defendants were able to postpone the onset of their sentence, “by gaining immunity in a never-ending case.”
Moro said in a lecture in Curitiba that until 2016, when the Federal Supreme Court (STF) allowed the execution of a sentence following conviction in the second instance, the Brazilian procedural system was “based on a duality” that benefited those who had money.
According to Moro, the defense of the execution of the sentence in the second instance is one of the key points of the anti-crime project that the federal government has submitted to the National Congress and which is expected to be approved by at least one of the houses (House of Representatives or Senate) later this semester.
“There is no point in improving criminal regulations; there is no point in improving laws or increasing the number of police officers if the case is unfit for effective accountability of the accused,” Moro argued at the opening of the National Congress on Macrocrime and Combating Corruption, held by the Paraná School of Magistrates (Esmafe) and the Paraná Association of Federal Judges (Apajufe).
Advocating that enforcement in the second instance represents a step towards ending the “impunity of the powerful”, the minister said that, although the STF has repeatedly recognized the legitimacy of the 2016 decision, it is still possible that understandings regarding the legitimacy of the onset of the sentence’s enforcement may be reversed, before all appeals have been exhausted.
“I don’t believe it will happen, but as there is such a possibility, the federal government has presented a bill to demonstrate clearly how it positions itself on this issue,” Moro explained, again defending the approval of the anti-crime bill.
“The procedure must guarantee universal access to defense, but it must come to an end within a reasonable period of time,” he said, affirming that the Ministry of Justice and Public Security is developing a number of other initiatives, although the anti-crime project is of paramount importance because “it solves serious flaws in our criminal justice system and it can rebuild credibility in peoples’ minds with respect to what governments should do by leading the process of change.”