An Austrian NGO lodged a complaint on Tuesday with the International Criminal Court (ICC) for “crimes against humanity” against Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, for his role in Amazon deforestation and its expected impacts on human life and health worldwide.

The complaint of the NGO AllRise, which the ICC is not required to follow up, is based in particular on the rapidly expanding science of "attribution" of the consequences of climate change.

According to studies, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has transformed this fundamental carbon sink for the planet into a net emitter of CO2 in 2020.

"Red alert" for humanity

AllRise assures that the administration of the Brazilian president is responsible for the deforestation of some 4,000 km2 of Amazon rainforest each year, and that the rate of this deforestation has increased by 88% since he took office.

She also accuses him of having "systematically" sought to weaken or get rid of the laws and official bodies framing these practices as activists for the protection of the environment.

All of these actions "are directly linked to the negative impacts of climate change across the world," continue the complainants, who draw in particular on the expertise of Friederike Otto, of Universiy College London and lead author of the recent assessment report. of the IPCC on climate change, described as a “red alert” for humanity by UN boss Antonio Guterres.

And experts who worked on the complaint estimate that emissions from deforestation under the current Brazilian administration will cause more than 180,000 additional deaths worldwide by the end of the century.

"We want to understand the causal link with the global climate of what is happening in Brazil, of this massive deforestation," Austrian founder AllRise Johannes Wesemann told AFP.

“This is exactly (…) the definition of a crime against humanity: the intentional destruction of the environment and its defenders”.

Bolsonaro already targeted by several complaints before the ICC

President Bolsonaro is already the target of several complaints before the ICC. In January 2021, the cacique Raoni Matuktire, emblematic defender of the Amazon rainforest, had already asked the ICC to investigate for “crimes against humanity” against Jair Bolsonaro, accused of “persecuting” indigenous peoples by destroying their habitat and by violating their fundamental rights. In July 2020, health workers in Brazil also requested an ICC investigation for "crimes against humanity" against Bolsonaro, this time for his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the ICC, created in 2002 to try the worst atrocities committed in the world and which sits in The Hague (Netherlands), is not forced to follow up on the thousands of requests filed with its prosecutor, who decides independently of the cases to be submitted to judges.

The complaint also targets several senior officials of the Brazilian administration, said lawyer Nigel Povoas.

"We affirm that because of their policy they are complicit in helping those on the ground who commit murder, persecution and other inhumane acts."

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