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A climate change activist holds a sign depicting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with the slogan "Exterminator of the Future" during a protest against the Brazilian leader over the fires in the Amazon rainforest on August 23, 2019.

A climate change activist holds a sign depicting Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with the slogan "Exterminator of the Future" during a protest against the Brazilian leader over the fires in the Amazon rainforest on August 23, 2019. (Photo: Luis Robayo/AFP via Getty Images)

Bolsonaro Accused of Crimes Against Humanity at ICC Over Amazon Destruction

"Crimes against nature are crimes against humanity."

Julia Conley

An Austrian environmental law group on Tuesday filed an official complaint at the International Criminal Court accusing Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity for his administration's role in pushing deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

"They are knowingly aiding and abetting the perpetrators on the ground committing crimes such as murder, persecution, and other inhumane acts."

 
The complaint by the organization, AllRise, highlights Bolsonaro's alleged actions since taking office in 2019 and their direct link to the heating of the planet, affecting not just Indigenous environmental defenders in the Amazon, but the global population as well.
 
"Crimes against nature are crimes against humanity," Johannes Wesemann, the founder of AllRise and its new project titled The Planet vs. Bolsonaro, said in a statement. "Jair Bolsonaro is fueling the mass destruction of the Amazon with eyes wide open and in full knowledge of the consequences. The ICC has a clear duty to investigate environmental crimes of such global gravity."
 
 
"With the power of the law and the support of the public, the ICC will need to act," the new initiative states. "Bolsonaro will be brought to justice."
 
Since Bolsonaro took office, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon has risen by as much as 88% as the extreme right-wing president has attempted to open up the forest to more economic development.
 
In July 2019, the number of fires set in the Amazon—a frequent occurrence driven by ranching, agricultural, and mining interests—jumped 28% compared to the year prior, with the country's National Institute for Space Research recording 6,803 blazes in a month.
 
In the first year of Bolsonaro's presidency, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon were burned—a portion of the jungle equal to the size of Lebanon.
 
The president has also gutted regulations protecting the Amazon, with his administration reducing fines for illegal logging by 42%.
 
Environmental defenders, including many members of Indigenous tribes, have come under attack for trying to defend the forest, which serves as a crucial carbon sink for the planet as well as a habitat for more than three million species including 2,500 tree species.
 

"Bolsonaro will be brought to justice."

As Common Dreams reported last month, 20 environmental defenders in Brazil were killed in 2020, with several of the murders linked to the logging sector.
 
"We're saying as a result of the state policy that they are pursuing they are knowingly aiding and abetting the perpetrators on the ground committing crimes such as murder, persecution, and other inhumane acts," lawyer Nigel Povoas, who has prosecuted international crimes, told AFP.
 
Previously, Indigenous leaders in Brazil have issued formal complaints regarding Bolsonaro's alleged crimes against humanity at the ICC; in January, Chief Raoni Metuktire of the Kayapo people and Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui of the Paiter Surui tribe accused the president fueling the "the assassination of Indigenous leaders," which was at an 11-year high, as well as deforestation.
 
AllRise said the complaint filed on Tuesday was the first to underscore the effects that Bolsonaro's attacks on the Amazon are having on the planet as a whole.
 
According to the organization, the emissions caused by Bolsonaro's policies will cause over 180,000 deaths related to excess heat this century.
 
"What's happening in Brazil—mass deforestation—we want to understand the causal link to the global climate," Wesemann told AFP Tuesday. "It is exactly what the Rome Statute defines as a crime against humanity: the intentional destruction of the environment and environmental defenders."

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