Brazil: Courts of Justice marked by a lack of transparency

Brazil: Courts of Justice marked by a lack of transparency - Transparency

ARTICLE 19’s Brazil office has released a new report entitled “Paths of Transparency – the Access to Information Law and the Law Courts“, published on 12 May to mark the anniversary of the Access to Information Law (AIL), which came into force in May 2012.

Four years after the entry into force of the AIL, Courts of Justice throughout Brazil have still not adapted to the minimum standards of transparency recommended for public bodies. On the contrary, the current state of affairs shows that much remains to be done in this area.

In light of the provisions of the AIL and Resolution Nº 215 of the National Council of Justice, the report evaluates the performance of the Courts of Justice of Brazil’s 27 federative units in the areas of “active transparency” and “passive transparency” (addressed in the “Administrative Transparency” section), as well as looking at other key themes such as “transparency in the judiciary” overall.

ARTICLE 19’s analysis revealed a number of serious problems, including a lack of important information about the Courts of Justice.

None of the courts fulfilled the six criteria adopted to evaluate “active transparency” (which concerns the availability of information on their websites). On this point, the Court of Justice of Sergipe was found to perform best, fulfilling five of the criteria. The Courts of Justice of Piauí and Rondônia performed worst, meeting just one of the criteria each.

Another alarming observation, in the analysis of “passive transparency”, was that more than half (56.8%) of the requests for information sent to the courts were ignored. This percentage is even more striking when compared with the evaluation of federal courts in an ARTICLE 19 report released last year, where unanswered requests accounted for just 9.1%.

ARTICLE 19 Executive Director, Paula Martins, believes that access to information in the context of the Courts of Justice is deficient, particularly considering how long the law has been in force.

With high rates of unanswered requests and unsatisfactory replies, as well as an average response time in excess of that established by the AIL and a considerable number of appeals required to receive the information requested, the state Courts of Justice still leave a lot to be desired regarding access to information”, she stated.

In recent years, we have noted some progress in relation to transparency in the judiciary, but there’s still a long way to go. Any initiative designed to improve access to information by the judiciary should consider the various aspects of transparency, whether active or passive, or related to administrative or justice delivery functions”, she added.

The report ends with a list of 29 recommendations for the authorities of the justice system on how to adapt to the minimum standards for access to information, and two articles written by members of the Association of Judges for Democracy (AJD) and the Justice and Human Rights Articulation network (JusDh) on transparency in the judiciary.

This is the fourth year that ARTICLE 19 has published a monitoring report on implementation of the AIL within public bodies in Brazil.

Read the Executive Summary of the report in English or the full report in Portuguese.

Photograph was taken by Ronaldo SM and is licenced under Creative Commons