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Brazil health worker unions urge ICC to investigate president over pandemic response
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Brazil health worker unions urge ICC to investigate president over pandemic response

A group of unions representing Brazilian health workers filed a complaint Monday against President Jair Bolsonaro in the International Criminal Court (ICC), alleging that Bolsonaro’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been a crime against humanity.

Brazil currently has the second highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, with almost two million individuals infected and almost 100,000 dead. Bolsonaro had previously been widely criticized for ignoring World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations. He had also been accused of downplaying the pandemic’s severity for political gain. In June the government was accused of withholding vital infection and death toll data.

The ICC complaint claims that Bolsonaro underestimated the seriousness of the pandemic and acted with contempt, neglect and denial. This attitude purportedly brought “disastrous consequences,” including the intensified spread of the virus and strained health services. Under the federal constitution, individuals are guaranteed the right to health, and the state is also obligated to promote health. The complaint claims that the failure of the government to act violated the constitution and amounted to genocide.

Even though social isolation was highly recommended by both national and international health professionals, Bolsonaro publicly spoke out against social isolation and continued to carry out public activities. He constantly upheld the unrestricted opening of social spaces, such as stores, schools and public parks. He also insisted upon chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine in Ministry of Health protocols for treatment, even though there were no scientific studies supporting their uses. Among many other things, the complaint accused Bolsonaro of never listening to the technical, medical and health recommendations of Brazil’s Minister of Health.

The plaintiffs asked that the ICC restrain Brazil’s government from acting negligently and that the ICC order the government to take the “proven, necessary steps to reduce risk to health professionals and the Brazilian population.”