The Brazilian Chamber of Deputies [official website, in Portuguese], the lower house of Congress, passed a measure [news release, in Portuguese] on Wednesday that would permit defendants to seek criminal consequences for prosecutors and judges if the officials abuse their powers, a change that many believe would impair law enforcement’s ability to investigate political corruption. A bill urging [Guardian report] widespread investigation of corruption made its its way to the lawmakers after nearly 2.5 million Brazilians signed a petition. The bill passed after midnight on Wednesday with changes that include the provision that punishes officials for abuse of power. With this provision, authorities who are believed to abuse their power can be sued by the defendant [WSJ report] and may also face a fine or a jail sentence. The lawmakers also removed protections for informants and a legal definition for the crime of illegal enrichment. The president of the Chamber of Deputies, Rodrigo Maia, said [news release, in Portuguese] on Thursday that the vote should be respected. Many prosecutors working on Operation Car Wash have threatened to collectively resign if Brazilian President Michel Temer signs the bill into law.
The bill was introduced as Operation Car Wash, an investigation which implicated many lawmakers in the Petrobras scandal [JURIST archive], is coming to a close. Brazil’s political establishment has been in turmoil as many powerful politicians have been brought to the center of embarrassing corruption investigation and trials. More than 100 individuals and 50 politicians have been arrested in connection to the scandal, and charges have been filed against some of Brazil’s most powerful politicians, including [JURIST report] former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Although not directly related to Petrobras, in August the Brazil Senate voted to convict [JURIST op-ed] Rousseff on allegations that she used improper accounting to cover-up a growing budget deficit and illegal loans from state-owned banks. Last month, Rousseff’s lawyers filed documents [JURIST report] with the Superior Electoral Court in Brazil alleging that her former vice president and current President Michel Temer took a large bribe.