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Brazil’s Bolsonaro sued at ICC for ‘genocide’, ‘ecocide’

Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil alleges in case filed with Hague-based court that the far-right president has led “an explicit, systematic and intentional anti-indigenous policy” since taking office in 2019.

Indigenous people take part in a protest against a proposed bill allowing commercial agriculture and mining on protected tribal reservations, curtailing indigenous land rights, in Brasilia, Brazil on June 30, 2021. (Reuters)

A Brazilian indigenous organisation has asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate President Jair Bolsonaro for “genocide” and “ecocide,” accusing him of persecuting native peoples and destroying their homelands.

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The Association of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB) alleged on Monday in a case filed with the Hague-based court that the far-right president has led “an explicit, systematic and intentional anti-indigenous policy” since taking office in 2019.

“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 (crimes), we denounce them to the international community,” the group’s legal coordinator, Eloy Terena, said in a statement.

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 also accuse him of exacerbating the devastation that Covid-19 has wrought on their communities with his anti-stay-at-home policies.

Destruction of Amazonian forest

Brazil’s estimated 900,000 indigenous inhabitants are particularly vulnerable to outside diseases, including Covid-19, which has killed at least 1,166 of them, according to 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.

Deforestation at record levels

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.

According to satellite data from the Brazilian space agency’s DETER monitoring programme, it was the second-worst year on record for the world’s biggest rainforest, behind only Bolsonaro’s first in office.

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