Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of “crimes against humanity” at the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in the destruction of the Amazon.
The case filed at the ICC on Tuesday, October 12, is the first case seeking to explicitly link deforestation to loss of life.
Planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions from burning and industrial-scale agriculture in the Amazon are higher than the total annual emissions of Italy or Spain and deforestation in the region already releases more CO2 than the rest of the Amazon can absorb.
Therefore Austrian environmental justice campaigners Allrise have filed the official legal suit at the Hague-based court asking for legal proceedings against Bolsonaro and his administration for actions “directly connected to the negative impacts of climate change around the world”.
The complaint accuses the Brazilian president of waging a widespread campaign resulting in the murder of environmental defenders and of endangering the global population through emissions caused by deforestation of the Amazon.
The suit alleges that Bolsonaro’s administration had sought to “systematically remove, neuter, and eviscerate laws, agencies and individuals that serve to protect the Amazon”.
It said that Bolsonaro was responsible for approximately 4,000 square kilometres (400,000 hectares) of lost rainforest each year, and that he had presided over monthly deforestation rates that had accelerated by up to 88 percent since taking office on January 1, 2019.
The team of experts estimated that emissions attributable to the Bolsonaro administration due to rampant deforestation will cause over 180,000 excess heat-related deaths globally this century.
“What’s happening in Brazil — mass deforestation — we want to understand the causal link to the global climate,” AllRise founder Johannes Wesemann told AFP.
“It is exactly what the Rome Statute defines as a crime against humanity: the intentional destruction of the environment and environmental defenders.”
The point of the complaint was “not to speak on behalf of any Brazilian, but rather to show the global gravity of mass deforestation”, said Wesemann.
The ICC has no obligation to consider complaints filed to the prosecutor by individuals or groups, and will not comment on them until the prosecutor announces that it has started a preliminary examination into a specific matter.