The Supreme Court on Friday denied a petition by a private association of families of Covid victims to investigate former President Jair Bolsonaro for criminal misconduct in the handling of the pandemic.
The petition was filed in April 2022, when Mr. Bolsonaro was still president. The association criticized what it perceived as inertia on the part of the Federal Prosecution Office in investigating alleged crimes committed by the former president, such as charlatanism, causing danger to life and health, violation of sanitary preventive measures, and nonfeasance.
Among several other behaviors, Mr. Bolsonaro organized rallies with large crowds and attended them without wearing a mask. He also promoted hydroxychloroquine as a Covid medication (even after its efficacy had been disproved), sowed doubts about the efficacy of vaccines, demonstrably postponed the purchase of sufficient quantities of vaccines for the Brazilian population, and falsely alleged that vaccines were linked to the development of HIV/AIDS.
Justice Luís Roberto Barroso accepted the argument of the Federal Prosecution Office that it did open preliminary investigations against Mr. Bolsonaro and other officials. Although that is true, Deputy Prosecutor General Lindôra Araújo has since requested that several investigations into the previous government’s mishandling of the pandemic be shelved indefinitely.
Justice Barroso’s decision prevailed by a 9-2 vote. The two dissenting judges, Justices Edson Fachin and Cármen Lúcia, voted to send the petition to a lower court in Brasília, as Mr. Bolsonaro no longer enjoys the legal prerogatives that come with the presidency.
Jair Bolsonaro left Brazil on December 30 and has been living in Florida since then.