On Friday, the United Nations Human Rights Committee released a statement requesting that former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who is currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for passive corruption and money laundering, be allowed to exercise his political rights while incarcerated and be free to stand in this year’s presidential election. Lula’s Workers’ Party sees this declaration as a potential route to getting their candidate campaigning on television and participating in live debates, and claim Brazil is legally obliged to adhere to the Committee’s ruling. However, the reality is far less clear-cut.
The Human Rights Committee order specifies that the country “take all necessary measures to ensure that Lula can enjoy and exercise his political rights while in prison,” which includes “having appropriate access to the media and members of his political party.” Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court has denied the former President’s requests to attend televised debates, or appear in any television or radio advertisements.
The committee ruling is expressed as an “interim measure,” or an injunction to ensure Lula’s political rights while his complaint to the United Nations is under consideration. Though Brazil is a signatory of international treaties that give the country the obligation to adhere to international rulings, the chances of the Human Rights Committee’s request being upheld are zero.