Climate activists have filed a complaint against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing him of “crimes against humanity” for his alleged involvement in the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Activists with the Austrian environmental advocacy group AllRise filed an official complaint in The Hague-based court on Tuesday, calling for an investigation into Bolsonaro and his administration for actions “directly connected to the negative impacts of climate change around the world.”
Bolsonaro is accused by the plaintiffs of waging a broad campaign that has resulted in the deaths of environmental activists and of putting the world’s population at risk due to emissions generated by deforestation. Bolsonaro’s administration, they claimed, has tried to “systematically remove, neuter, and eviscerate laws, agencies, and individuals that serve to protect the Amazon.”
According to the scientists cited in the complaint, emissions caused by the Bolsonaro administration’s excessive deforestation would result in over 180,000 additional heat-related fatalities worldwide by 2100. “In the last few years, climate science has come a long way in being able to provide evidence of specific causal relationships between emissions of greenhouse gases and the consequences that arrive globally as a result,” said Rupert Stuart Smith of the University of Oxford’s Sustainable Law Programme.
As per the complaint, Bolsonaro is responsible for over 4,000 square kilometers (400,000 hectares) of destroyed rainforest per year, and he has presided over monthly deforestation rates that have increased by up to 88 percent since assuming office in January 2019. According to AllRise founder Johannes Wesemann, the complaint’s goal is to “not to speak on behalf of any Brazilian, but rather to show the global gravity of mass deforestation.”
“What’s happening in Brazil — mass deforestation — we want to understand the causal link to the global climate. It is exactly what the Rome Statute defines as a crime against humanity: the intentional destruction of the environment and environmental defenders,” said Wesemann. It is not the first time the International Criminal Court (ICC) has been urged to investigate the far-right Brazilian President. There have been at least three previous accusations against Bolsonaro at the ICC since 2016, but this is the first case to clearly establish a connection between deforestation and the loss of life.