Home » Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro accused of crimes against humanity at International Criminal Court (ICC)

Brazilian President Jair Bolsanaro accused of crimes against humanity at International Criminal Court (ICC)

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Nick Breeze

Climate journalist and host of Shaping The Future podcast.

  • Complementing existing ICC complaints, the Communication adds a new international dimension
  • Submitting party “AllRise” relies on existing legal framework to aim at setting a precedent ending impunity for environmental destruction

Oct. 12, 2021 – AllRise accuses President Jair Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity in submissions filed before the Prosecution Office of the International Criminal Court in the Hague today.

With ‘The Planet vs Bolsonaro’ AllRise seeks to launch a landmark case which argues that the actions of Bolsonaro and his administration are a widespread attack on the Amazon, its dependents and its defenders that not only result in the persecution, murder and inhumane suffering in the region, but also upon the global population. 

“Being the lungs of our planet, the destruction of the Amazon biome affects us all. In our complaint we present evidence that shows how Bolsonaro’s actions are directly connected to the negative impacts of climate change around the world,” AllRise founder Johannes Wesemann explains. 

The not-for-profit organisation AllRise, focused on environmental litigation, has been supported by leading legal and scientific experts, including Maud Sarlieve and Nigel Povoas Q.C., as well as Dr. Friederike Otto, climatologist and a lead author of the latest IPCC report that UN Secretary-General António Guterres called a ‘code red for humanity’. 

In a press conference today, Johannes Wesemann said: “Crimes against nature are crimes against humanity. 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.” 

For the first time in 2016, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court identified crimes involving land grabbing, the exploitation of illegal resources and environmental destruction as being of particular concern. Since then, at least three other complaints have been submitted about Bolsonaro. However, this is the first case to detail the full impact that Bolsonaro’s actions, in fueling the climate crisis, will have on human health and life across the globe. It is estimated that emissions attributable to the Bolsonaro administration will cause over 180,000 excess heat-related deaths globally over the next 80 years, based on current climate commitments.*

Wesemann adds: “Our initiative has strong Brazilian support, but we don’t seek to speak on behalf of any Brazilian communities, nor claim to represent them. Our case aims to add an important international dimension to their struggle. The Amazon is theirs, but it is needed by us all.”* further details can be found on p24 of the Oxford Expert Report

Deforestation in parts of the Amazon biome already releases more CO2 than the rest of the Amazon absorbs. This increase of CO2 in our atmosphere is one reason for rising temperatures and the global climate crisis, with serious impacts for human health. Dr. Friederike Otto, Senior Lecturer at Imperial College London’s Grantham Institute of Climate Change and the Environment and co-author of the AllRise ICC Communication: “As the climate changes, heat waves around the world increase in number, intensity and duration. Heat waves are by far the deadliest extreme events in many countries. 37% of heat-related deaths over the last three decades are attributed to climate change worldwide, equivalent to thousands of deaths per year.”

Maud Sarlieve, Human Rights and International Criminal Lawyer: “Bolsonaro’s administration has ruthlessly pursued a state policy targeted at the Amazon biome, its dependents, and its defenders. There are clear and compelling grounds to believe that Crimes Against Humanity are being committed in Brazil which require immediate investigation and, ultimately, prosecution.” 

Nigel Povoas Q.C., a Queen’s Counsel who has led the prosecution of some of the most notorious international criminals over the past 15 years, adds: “The ICC is built on the Rome Statute, offering a legal framework for prosecuting high-level perpetrators of international crime such as Bolsonaro. By opening an investigation with a view to prosecution the ICC would set a significant precedent in the prosecution of major environmental crime.” The ICC is being asked to investigate Bolsonaro on the basis that his actions are putting the Amazon at risk with potentially dire consequences for humanity:

  • Bolsonaro’s administration has sought to systematically remove, neuter, and eviscerate laws, agencies, and individuals that serve to protect the Amazon, its dependents and its defenders and has fostered a culture of impunity. His administration is currently pushing through legislation which will accelerate deforestation, has cut the number of enforcement agents by 27% and reduced fines for illegal logging by 42%.
  • Deforestation and Amazon wildfires have reached record levels. Approximately 4,000km2/pa. of the total area which has been deforested in the Brazilian Amazon is attributed to actions taken by Bolsonaro’s administration alone. He presided over monthly deforestation rates that have accelerated by as much as 88%. If that continues, consequences will be profound.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions from burning and industrial-scale cattle ranching in the Amazon are now higher than the total yearly emissions of Italy or Spain* and are pushing the Amazon toward a tipping point beyond which the forest would transition to a dry state. Heatwaves and wildfires, such as those recently experienced in Brazil, Southern Europe, North America’s Pacific Northwest and Australia, as well as the flooding and other recent extreme weather events witnessed in Germany, the U.S., and China, are intensified by climate change and therefore by deforestation of the Amazon.
    *derived data from the Oxford Expert Report

 Accompanied by a global campaign and a petition on ThePlanetVS.org, AllRise calls on the people to inspire civil action on climate change. “Only if we all stand together and bring perpetrators like Brazilian President Bolsonaro to justice, can we secure our planet for the generations to come. Powerful individuals who intentionally destroy the environment have to be prosecuted. With the power of the law, with the power of the people. The time is now,” Wesemann concludes. 

AllRise is a new non-profit organisation. It is focused on environmental litigation initiatives that bring to justice those who are directly and indirectly accelerating environmental destruction. The team who filed the first case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, aiming to prosecute Jair Bolsonaro and members of his administration for facilitating the environmental devastation of the Brazilian Amazon, consists of leading experts in their fields. More information:https://www.theplanetvs.org/
 
 Selected advisory board members, supporting the initiative “The Planet vs. Bolsonaro”:

  • Sir Howard Morrison: from 2011-2021 Judge of the International Criminal Court
  • Nema Milaninia: previously worked as a Trial Lawyer for the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Court
  • Thomas Lovejoy: President of the Amazon Biodiversity Center and a Senior Fellow at the United Nations Foundation
  • Kimberly Marteau Emerson: Lawyer, Advocate, Board of Directors at Human Rights Watch
  • Kate Mackintosh: Inaugural Executive Director of the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law and Advisory Board Member of Stop Ecocide
  • Margaretha Wewerinke-Singh: Assistant Professor at Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies and Board Member of the Stop Ecocide Foundation

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