Why Bolsonaro could be denounced at the international criminal court

The Bulletin on Rights in the Pandemic presents the reasons why denouncements of the president are racking up at the court that investigates the gravest crimes committed by individuals

 “We need to specify what is happening in Brazil during the pandemic,” it says in the very first lines of the editorial of the fourth issue of the Bulletin on Rights in the Pandemic. The publication heard representatives from Brazilian organisations that have filed reports to the ICC (International Criminal Court) against President Jair Bolsonaro regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and violations of the rights of indigenous populations.

The ICC sits in the Hague in the Netherlands and is responsible for investigating the gravest crimes committed by individuals against human rights, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. In order for an investigation to be opened it is necessary to determine whether there is proof that sufficiently grave crimes exist and whether they come under the jurisdiction of the international court.


Genocide of indigenous people and attacks on socio-environmental rights

The first report against Bolsonaro to the International Criminal Court took place before the start of the public health crisis. In November 2019, CADHu (Collective of Human Rights Advocacy) and the Arns Commission filed a report outlining systematic generalised attacks and incitement to genocide of indigenous people committed by the head of state.

“The systematic attack on socio-environmental rights resulting from a series of measures by President Jair Bolsonaro fosters an incitement to commit crimes against humanity and genocide of indigenous and traditional Brazilian people.”

Brazil as a global threat in the pandemic

In April of this year, the ABJD (Brazilian Association of Lawyers for Democracy) filed the first report regarding President Jair Bolsonaro´s behaviour in managing the Covid-19 crisis.

“Brazil has been one of the most significant cases of disobedience and has confronted science and the UN. In addition, the behaviour of Mr Jair Messias Bolsonaro, the highest authority in the country, goes against WHO recommendations and understates the effects of the pandemic, leading to direct incalculable consequences in terms of proliferation and the rate of contamination of the disease.” Said Carol Proner, Coordinator of the Secretary for International Relations at the organisation.

In June, this line of argument was bolstered with a new denouncement, this time presented by the PDT (Democratic Workers Party). The party recounted “numerous breaches” perpetrated by Bolsonaro during the pandemic that have affected “not only the Brazilian population´s fundamental human rights but also those of all other populations.” 

In the following month, a coalition of 63 health sector trade unions and quilombola and indigenous movements, filed a complaint against Jair Bolsonaro accusing him of crime against humanity and genocide for his bad management and omissions in combatting the pandemic.

“In addition to a lack of coordination, President Jair Bolsonaro has himself behaved quite inappropriately over these last six months, failing to wear a mask when all public health authorities recommend doing so. He has gathered his supporters in agglomerations and has had physical contact with them without the prior use of sanitiser.” They said.

The organisations stress that the president´s actions are regarded as crimes in the Brazilian Criminal Code. They go on to condemn the promotion of medication against coronavirus that has not been scientifically proven.

The Bulletin of Rights in the Pandemic is part of the project “mapping and analysis of legal norms in response to Covid-19 in Brazil,” developed by Cepedisa (Centre for Research and Studies on Sanitation Rights) at the Public Health Faculty of USP (University of São Paulo) in partnership with Conectas Human Rights. 

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