23 Juni 2021
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Military Justice, Journalism and Free Speech in Brazil

On 17 June, 2021, the Attorney-General of the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court affirmed that, in the government's view, the Military Justice has competence to try civilians accused of criminal offences against the honor of military institutions. He proposed that crimes related to the freedom of speech should be tried by a special military branch of the judiciary. The attacks on free speech by the government through the Attorney-General is another sign of the democratic erosion process. Continue reading >>
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14 Juni 2021

Defending Democracy with Authoritarian Means

Brazilian Congress is currently discussing a legislative proposal to replace the current Law of National Security, enacted during the time of the military dictatorship in Brazil. It revokes the current Law of National Security and introduces a new section to Brazil’s Criminal Code defining various crimes against democracy, such as political violence, the dissemination of fake news in electoral campaigns and sabotage against democratic institutions. Continue reading >>
28 Mai 2021
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The Amazon Rainforest under Attack

On 13 May, the Brazilian lower house approved a controversial Bill on Environmental Licensing. The Bill has yet to receive the Senate’s final approval, but it has already attracted much criticism. The actual target of the Bill is thinly veiled: The Amazon region, where it could lead to increasing deforestation. The Bill is just another step in the regressive, anti-environment agenda implemented by the current Brazilian government. Continue reading >>
19 Mai 2021
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Academic Freedom Under Attack in Brazil

Can the chief of a constitutional organization akin to an ombudsman prosecute a law professor who criticized him in a newspaper article? Apparently, because Brazilian Prosecutor General just filed a complaint against Constitutional Law Professor Conrado Hübner Mendes. This attack follows a wave of democratic erosion that includes attacks on universities, intellectualism, and the diversity of ideas. Continue reading >>
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11 April 2021
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Negationism’s ‘Day in Court’

Twice in less than a week’s time, the number of COVID-19 related deaths in Brazil per day raised above the mark of 4,000 cases. On 8 April 2021, the number of deaths reached its peak while Bolsonarism suffered two major defeats in the Federal Supreme Court. Bolsonarists lost both their claim to keep religious services during the pandemic and their attempt to block the opening of a parliamentary enquiry to hold Bolsonaro accountable for his executive underreach. Nonetheless, these defeats provided an opportunity to keep Bolsonaro’s antiestablishment and resentful rhetoric alive. Continue reading >>
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12 März 2021

Lula’s Power is Brazil’s Arm

On 8 March 2021, Judge Edson Fachin from the Brazilian Supreme Court made a decision that frees former President Lula from all his convictions. This might decisively affect the course of the next presidential elections in Brazil, in 2022, as it puts former President Lula back in the presidential race. Perhaps even more importantly, its consequences might help in the fight against the Covid-19 crisis in Brazil. Continue reading >>
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10 März 2021
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Operation Car Wash on Trial

On 8 March 2021, the legal and political world was surprised by a judicial ruling of Justice Fachin, from the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court, which annulled three criminal cases against the former President Lula da Silva in the context of the so-called Operation Car Wash. In the following, we aim to recover some of the main arguments, positions and surrounding political scenario that involves Lula’s cases. The Federal Supreme Court seems to try to create a scenario for the reconstruction of the rule of law, which has been severely impaired in the past five years. Continue reading >>
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22 Februar 2021
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COVID-19 in Brazil: A Sick Constitutional Democracy

In the first half of January 2021, Brazil had already counted more than 200,000 deaths and 8 million people diagnosed with COVID-19. Throughout 2020, the responses from the federal government, which should have taken on a coordination role considering the federalised National Health Service (SUS, Sistema Único de Saúde), were confusing and inefficient. Doubts and scepticism spread by the federal executive undermined the work of governors and mayors and, mirroring the American example, contributed to increase the number of cases and casualties. Continue reading >>
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19 Februar 2021
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Brazilian Democracy Under Military Tutelage

The relationship between the military and the civilian government is one that has defined the whole constitutional history of Brazil and could pave the way for a collapse of democracy. A few days ago, former Army General Villas Bôas revealed in an interview how the armed forces exercised pressure in 2018 against the Federal Supreme Court in the case of former President Lula. The threats made by General Villas Bôas demonstrate the fragility of the Brazilian democracy. Conflicts between the military and courts have been growing, and Bolsonaro has intensified the situation by increasingly involving military personnel in politics and making access to guns easier for the general public. Continue reading >>
30 Januar 2021

A Bolsonarist Cat Among the Pigeons

While the election of Kassio Nunes Marques in September 2020 was initially met with relief by some as he had no known links to the government, the new justice of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) has since demonstrated his fidelity to the president that elected him. This could play a significant role in the future of Brazil given his likely being the deciding vote in an upcoming case on the existing conviction of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Continue reading >>
06 Januar 2021

The Brazilian Constitution Hanging by a Thread

In a December judgement, the Brazilian Supreme Court finally prohibited the re-election of the president of the House of Representatives, which had been practice for decades despite being in direct violation of the Brazilian constitution. In 2020, there has been unequivocal interest in the position of president of the House of Representatives as it holds the constitutional power to initiate an impeachment process, threatening president Bolsonaro. Although the Court ultimately declared the re-election unconstitutional, five dissenting votes of this judgment demonstrate the power of abusive judicial review. Continue reading >>
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23 Dezember 2020
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Opposing an Idle Federal Government

Last week, the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court ruled that mandatory vaccination is constitutional and that states and municipalities may implement vaccination plans if the federal government does not do so. Deciding on five cases altogether, the court strengthened Brazilian federalism in the face of a federal government that remains largely inactive in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. Continue reading >>
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19 August 2020
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Abortion in Times of Disinformation

It should have been as straightforward as that. A ten-year-old is raped and now is pregnant. According to Brazilian law, she has the right to terminate her pregnancy at will. However, the girl from our tale yet again has her most fundamental rights violated. Continue reading >>
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31 Juli 2020
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No Need for a New Constitution in Brazil

In two recent articles, published in English and Portuguese, Professor Bruce Ackerman argued that the roots of Brazil’s political crisis, with the rise of extremist factions to power, is the 1988 Constitution and the presidential system it established. Under Ackerman’s account, the best response to such crisis would be to convene a new Constituent Assembly in 2023 in order to set up a parliamentary system, while also allowing the constituent delegates to “reconsider key decisions by the Assembly of 1988”. In this article, we intend to engage in this debate by explaining why the intent to promulgate a new Constitution might make things even worse. Continue reading >>
19 Juli 2020

Undercutting Internet Governance in Brazil

On June 30, 2020, the Brazilian Senate approved Draft Bill No. 2.630 of 2020, also known as “The Fake News Bill”. This bill applies to internet platforms with over 2 million users and seeks to address the warranted concerns presented by the recent spread of online disinformation and defamatory content. As it currently stands, the bill does little to address the individuals and organizations who finance the spread of fake news across social media platforms in Brazil. It also poses threats to user privacy, access to the internet, and freedom of association. Continue reading >>
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16 Juni 2020
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Judicial Responses to Bolsonarism: The Leading Role of the Federal Supreme Court

Criticism against the Brazilian judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, has been on the rise in the past couple of decades. Under Jair Bolsonaro’s presidency, however, courts are experiencing a more radical and dangerous form of opposition, which transcends the borders of legitimate criticism and undertakes a direct attack on the judicial branch. This must be understood in light of the Federal Supreme Court’s backlash against Bolsonaro’s maneuvers to flame his supporters and violate the Brazilian Constitution of 1988. This article aims at recollecting the most important rulings and procedures that take part in this reaction. Continue reading >>
04 Juni 2020
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The ‘Constitutional Military Inter­vention’: Brazil on the Verge of Democratic Breakdown

After numerous judicial defeats in the past couple of months, Bolsonaro chose to travel down the path of intimidation and defiance rather than institutional reform: Through dubious constitutional interpretation, he and his supporters are ascribing to the armed forces the role of a "constitutional moderator" in order to undermine the independence of the Supreme Court. Continue reading >>
25 Mai 2020

The Illiterate Democracy

Brazil is suffering under the corona pandemic, while the president (mis)governs the country by denying scientific evidence. Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic seems a good time to explore the right to science and how it might help in this situation. Continue reading >>
02 Mai 2020

Impeachment, und dann?

In den letzten Tagen wurde Brasilien von der gravierendsten politischen Krise seit dem Antritt der aktuellen Regierung erschüttert: Sergio Moro, der Superjustizminister des Kabinettes Bolsonaros, ist wegen interner Dispute mit dem Präsidenten zurückgetreten. Gleichzeitig schwindet Bolsonaros Rückhalt im Parlament, was auch ein Amtsenthebungsverfahren gegen ihn wahrscheinlicher werden lässt. Tatsächlich haben die letzten Jahre jedoch gezeigt, dass das Amtsenthebungsverfahren kein wirksames Mittel ist, um die Stabilität und somit die Demokratie Brasiliens zu stärken. Continue reading >>
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10 April 2020

Pushing the Boundaries of Legal Normality

The Brazilian Emergency Constitution is still dormant, instead “legislative and executive apparatuses” are used to “enforce measures for protecting public health”. But that does not mean, that emergency powers in Brazil are not yet in reach: While we patiently wait for the Emergency Constitution to wake up from its doctrinal sleep, legislation has already bypassed it and is venturing into uncharted territory. Continue reading >>
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18 März 2020
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Why Bolsonaro Needs to Be Impeached

Brazil’s longstanding political crisis already looked like the worst-case scenario, but it was surmounted by a further explosive element: the COVID-19 health crisis. Populist executive leaders seem to have responded too late to the dangers of this pandemic, but all of them appear be at least aware of the political effects of their policies. Bolsonaro seems to be taking a higher risk, adopting a position that indicates that his institutional support might be vanishing and pushing him towards direct support by his popular sympathizers. Continue reading >>
07 November 2019
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Threats to Brazilian Democracy Gain Traction

Democracy in Brazil is under attack and facing a significant level of backsliding. The developments in recent years, from Dilma Rousseff’s parliamentary coup to Jair Bolsonaro’s ascent to power, have shown that democracy erodes in an incremental process. Lawmaker Eduardo Bolsonaro has recently taken another step in that direction when he publicly suggested that a 1964-1985 dictatorship’s decree should be repeated in case the Brazilian left-wing movements took a more radical position. His statements are prohibited under Brazilian law and Brazil’s institutions need to hold Eduardo Bolsonaro accountable in order to put brakes on the country’s democratic decline. Continue reading >>
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02 September 2019

König Midas, Hauptmann Kettensäge und die Mittel des Völkerrechts zum Schutz der Biodiversität

Spätestens seit der Veröffentlichung des UN Global Assessment Report im Mai 2019 wissen wir, dass etwa eine Million der insgesamt acht Millionen Arten vom Aussterben bedroht sind – mehr als jemals zuvor in der Geschichte unseres Planeten. Das sechste globale Massensterben von Tieren und Pflanzen erfordert ein konzertiertes Vorgehen der internationalen Staatengemeinschaft. Doch nationale Alleingänge, wie des US-Präsidenten Trump und seines brasilianischen Amtskollegen Bolsonaro, nehmen zugunsten der heimischen Wirtschaft unwiederbringliche Verluste der Artenvielfalt in Kauf, die den Bestand der Ökosysteme weltweit gefährden. Welche Mittel hält das Völkerrecht bereit, um dem entgegenzuwirken? Continue reading >>
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10 Januar 2019

Brasiliens neuer Superjustizminister und das drohende Ende des Rechtsstaats

Brasiliens demokratischer Rechtsstaat hat gerade seinen 30. Geburtstag gefeiert. Doch mit der Wahl des seit dem 1. Januar 2019 amtierenden Präsidenten Jair Bolsonaro ist sein Fortbestand gefährdet wie nie. Vergleichsweise wenig Beachtung fand in den internationalen Medien, was die neue Regierung in Bezug auf die Justizverwaltung Brasiliens plant: Ein „Superjustizministerium“ soll gegründet werden, das vom ehemaligen Bundesrichter Sergio Moro geleitet wird, und ein strenges Antiterrorgesetz soll verabschiedet werden. Beides ist geeignet, die rechtsstaatliche Ordnung Brasiliens zu beeinträchtigen. Continue reading >>
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03 Dezember 2018
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Brazil in the Dock: The Inter-American Court of Human Rights Rulings Concerning the Dictatorship of 1964-1985

On July 4th 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights […] Continue reading >>
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25 Oktober 2018
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What does a Bolsonaro Presidency mean for Brazilian Law? Part 2: the Reforms and the Court

Jair Bolsonaro, an extreme right-wing former army officer who has spent the last 20 years as a representative in Congress, is at this point likely to be the next president of Brazil. But what are the implications for Brazilian law in case of Bolsoaro's victory? Part 2 looks at the probable scenarios before Brazil's Supreme Court if any of the reforms are challenged. Continue reading >>
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24 Oktober 2018
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What does a Bolsonaro Presidency mean for Brazilian Law? Part 1: Reforms from the Far Right

Jair Bolsonaro, an extreme right-wing former army officer who has spent the last 20 years as a representative in Congress, is at this point likely to be the next president of Brazil. But what are the implications for Brazilian law in case of Bolsoaro's victory? Part 1 outlines which of the policies he has proposed so far are most likely to be enacted. Continue reading >>
04 Mai 2017

Judges Speaking for the People: Judicial Populism beyond Judicial Decisions

We typically think of courts as victims or targets of […] Continue reading >>
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21 April 2016

Dilma Rousseff and the Impeachment Process: Questions of Power and Influence

Dilma Rousseff, the President of Brazil, is about to be forced out of office soon. Any impeachment process is, first and foremost, political, dealing with questions of power and influence. To be sure, political reforms such as the introduction of measures to significantly reduce the number of parties in Congress are urgently needed. Unfortunately, there is no immediate remedy to this significant deficiency in sight. And yet, it is clear that any governing coalition to function in Brazil’s political system requires a president extremely skilled in engaging with the legislative, creating deals, forging alliances and making compromises. Dilma Rousseff is facing the end of her political career because she has utterly failed in this respect. Continue reading >>
29 Dezember 2015

Brasilien: Institutionelle Eigenheiten der politischen Krise

Brasilien erweckt derzeit durch Krisennachrichten Aufmerksamkeit. Die Wirtschaftszahlen sind schlecht. Nicht enden wollende Korruptionsskandale und ein Amtsenthebungsverfahren gegen die 2014 wiedergewählte Präsidentin Dilma Rousseff halten das eben noch als „Wirtschaftsmacht der Zukunft“ gepriesene Land in Atem. Bei einem Kurzbesuch 2015 konnte ich mir nicht nur über die immer wieder erstaunliche brasilianische Vitalität einen Eindruck verschaffen, sondern auch feststellen, wie niedergeschlagen Politik und Land eingeschätzt werden. Continue reading >>
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