Two top Brazilian domestic leaders have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate President Jair Bolsonaro for “crimes against humanity” and accuse him of unprecedented environmental damage, murder and persecution.
Chief Raoni Metuktire, leader of the Kayapo people, and Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui, leader of the Paiter Surui tribe, submitted the demand to The Hague-based bodies on Friday.
Since Bolsonaro became president in January 2019, “the destruction of the Amazon forest has accelerated immeasurably,” the complaint told the ICC, reported by the French newspaper Le Monde on Saturday.
It said deforestation had increased “by 34.5 percent in one year, the assassination of domestic leaders is 11 years old and environmental agencies have collapsed or been threatened.”
The two leaders said that murder, forced relocation of local people and persecution constituted “crimes against humanity”.
Bolsonaro’s government has proposed legislation that would ease restrictions in Amazon regions for commercial mining, oil and gas extraction and large-scale agriculture.
Activists are pushing for ecocide to be added to the crimes prosecuted by the ICC, along with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The issue was raised by the Maldives and Vanuatu at the ICC General Assembly in December 2019.
“This situation, the most dramatic in the last ten years, is a direct result of Jair Bolsonaro’s policy,” which seeks to “lift all barriers to plundering the Amazon’s wealth,” the suit said, pointing to mining companies.
It said that “the destruction of the Amazon forest … was a direct danger not only to Brazilians but to all of humanity.”
In July last year, health workers in Brazil had also called on the ICC to try Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
A month earlier, boss Raoni had told AFP in an interview that Bolsonaro was trying to use the pandemic to eliminate the indigenous people.
Brazil’s immunization program has been widely criticized for being late and chaotic, not least given Bolsonaro’s opposition.