An Indigenous organisation in Brazil has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro for “genocide” and “ecocide”, accusing him of persecuting native peoples and destroying their homelands.
The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) alleged in a case filed with the Hague-based court on Monday that the far-right president has led “an explicit, systematic and intentional anti-Indigenous policy” since taking office in 2019.
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“We believe there are acts in progress in Brazil that constitute crimes against humanity, genocide and ecocide,” Eloy Terena, the group’s legal coordinator, said in a statement.
“Given the inability of the justice system in Brazil to investigate, prosecute and judge these [crimes], we denounce them to the international community,” Terena said.
Bolsonaro, 66, has presided over a surge of destruction in the Amazon rainforest, slashed environmental protection programmes and pushed to open Indigenous reservations and other protected lands to agribusiness and mining.
Indigenous rights activists further accuse him of exacerbating the devastation that COVID-19 has wrought on their communities with his stance against stay-at-home policies.
The estimated 900,000 Indigenous people in Brazil are particularly vulnerable to outside diseases, including COVID-19, which has killed at least 1,166 of them, according to the APIB.
It is not the first time Indigenous leaders have accused Bolsonaro of attacking their people and homelands.
In January, iconic Indigenous chief Raoni Metuktire filed a separate case to the ICC asking the court to investigate Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity, saying the “destruction of the Amazonian forest has accelerated without measure” under his government.
The ICC’s chief prosecutor must now decide whether to pursue the cases.
Official figures released on Friday show deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached near-record levels for the year through July, destroying an area nearly the size of Puerto Rico.