Bolsonaro should stand trial for crimes against humanity, indigenous leaders say

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This article was published in partnership with Inside climate news, an independent, non-profit media that covers climate, energy and the environment. It is part of “The Fifth Crime”, a series on ecocide.

On a Tuesday afternoon in late March 2020, Zezico Rodrigues Guajajara was killed by gunmen while riding a motorcycle near his home village in Maranhao, Brazil.

A member of the Guajajara tribe, he had worked for years to protect the Amazon lands belonging to his ancestors and other isolated or isolated tribes. For Zezico, repelling illegal incursions had become increasingly dangerous as emboldened logging and mining groups targeted him and other indigenous environmental activists. He was the fifth Guajajara to be killed in five months and one of more than two dozen forest protectors killed in Brazil since 2019.

Indigenous leaders and human rights organizations have accused Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of allowing such killings through state policies that they say encourage the destruction of the Amazon for profit while failing to not protecting the rights of indigenous peoples. They asked the International Criminal Court to investigate whether the far-right leader‘s actions, including the weakening of dozens of environmental protections and the encouragement of private development in the Amazon, leading to the displacement of indigenous populations. and contributing to climate change, constitute crimes against humanity.

“Bolsonaro has campaigned against indigenous peoples and their rights since the day he took office,” said Marcio Astrini, head of the environmental protection organization Climate Observatory. “In his actions and speeches, he incites land grabbers, illegal loggers and illegal miners to invade indigenous areas, causing violence and deforestation. It endangers indigenous communities and lives. “

Astrini supports the request for an investigation and said the action of the international tribunal was necessary to prevent the Brazilian government from facilitating illegal activities in the Amazon.

The Brazilian embassy in Washington and its foreign ministry did not respond to requests for comment. Responding to questions from Inside Climate News and NBC News for a previous article, the Brazilian Embassy said Bolsonaro had “systematically defended” the well-being of indigenous peoples and the preservation of the Amazon.

In public comments, Bolsonaro firmly defended Brazil right to develop rainforest, citing the country’s sovereignty, and accused foreign leaders of wanting to hamper Brazil’s lucrative agricultural and commodity-export industries. Its supporters also point out that Brazil has historically contributed very little to climate change compared to developed countries like the United States.

The prosecutor’s office of the International Criminal Court, which is assessing the request for an investigation, did not respond to a request for comment. The court’s request to open an investigation into Bolsonaro is the latest turning point in a growing debate over whether mass environmental damage should be prosecuted as an international crime.

The rampant deforestation of the Amazon by Bolsonaro and the threat posed by climate change have prompted world leaders like Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron to support a campaign for a new international crime called “ecocide”, which would prohibit the widespread destruction of the environment. Supporters cite Bolsonaro’s actions in the Amazon as a prime example of ecocide occurring in real time.


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