Brazil’s Indigenous People Articulation (APIB) filed a statement before the International Criminal Court (ICC) Monday requesting an investigation into alleged genocide and crimes against humanity committed by Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro.
The complaint centres on “systematic and anti-indigenous” social and environmental policies enacted by Bolsonaro since his term began in January 2019, exasperated during the COVID-19 pandemic. APIB claims that Bolsonaro’s government has systematically dismantled social protection for indigenous communities and environmental protection for their territories, amounting to genocide and ecocide. The removal of these safeguards has resulted in increased invasion of indigenous lands and consequential deforestation, fires, and illegal mining.
APIB also allege that Bolsonaro has directly encouraged attacks against indigenous peoples. The evidence presented to the ICC primarily includes refusal to demarcate new lands as well as policies and orders with the aim of encouraging invasive activities and conflict within indigenous territory.
According to APIB legal coordinator Eloy Terena: “We believe there are acts in progress in Brazil that constitute crimes against humanity, genocide and ecocide. Given the inability of the justice system in Brazil to investigate, prosecute and judge these conducts, we denounce them to the international community, throughout the International Criminal Court.”
To succeed in its claim of crimes against humanity, APIB must establish under Article 7 of the Rome Statute that Bolsonaro’s policies constitute a systematic attack directed at Brazil’s indigenous peoples with the effect of extermination, persecution, or inhumane acts causing serious injury to physical or mental health. APIB’s claim of genocide under Article 6 centres on serious bodily or mental harm and deliberate infliction of conditions aimed at the destruction of indigenous peoples.
The statement was written by several indigenous leaders, organisations, and academics, and was supported by the Collective Advocacy on Human Rights. It is the first time in history that indigenous peoples will stand before the ICC supported by indigenous lawyers.
ICC Chief Prosecutor Karim Khan will now decide whether to pursue the case.