Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro accused of ‘crimes against humanity’ at ICC

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has charged Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with “crimes against humanity” for his alleged role in the devastation of the Amazon.

The complaint, which was filed at the ICC on Tuesday, October 12th, is the first to expressly link deforestation to death.

The Amazon’s overall yearly greenhouse gas emissions from burning and industrial-scale agriculture are more than Italy’s or Spain’s entire annual emissions, and deforestation in the region already releases more CO2 than the Amazon can absorb.

As a result, Allrise, an Austrian environmental justice organization, has filed an official legal challenge in the Hague-based court, seeking legal action against Bolsonaro and his administration for conduct “directly related to the negative effects of climate change around the world.”

The complaint accuses the Brazilian president of launching a broad campaign that resulted in the assassination of environmental activists and putting the world’s population at risk due to emissions created by Amazon deforestation.

Bolsonaro’s administration is accused of attempting to “systematically abolish, neuter, and eviscerate laws, agencies, and personnel that serve to safeguard the Amazon,” according to the lawsuit.

The suit alleges that Bolsonaro’s administration had sought to “systematically remove, neuter, and eviscerate laws, agencies and individuals that serve to protect the Amazon”.

It said that Bolsonaro was responsible for approximately 4,000 square kilometres (400,000 hectares) of lost rainforest each year, and that he had presided over monthly deforestation rates that had accelerated by up to 88 percent since taking office on January 1, 2019.

The team of experts estimated that emissions attributable to the Bolsonaro administration due to rampant deforestation will cause over 180,000 excess heat-related deaths globally this century.

“What’s happening in Brazil — mass deforestation — we want to understand the causal link to the global climate,” AllRise founder Johannes Wesemann told AFP.

“It is exactly what the Rome Statute defines as a crime against humanity: the intentional destruction of the environment and environmental defenders.”

The point of the complaint was “not to speak on behalf of any Brazilian, but rather to show the global gravity of mass deforestation”, said Wesemann.

The ICC has no obligation to consider complaints filed to the prosecutor by individuals or groups, and will not comment on them until the prosecutor announces that it has started a preliminary examination into a specific matter.

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