Climate Lawyers Want Brazil's Bolsonaro Investigated for 'Widespread Attack on the Amazon'

Climate lawyers want Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to be investigated for administration's policies that they say are to blame for a "widespread attack on the Amazon, its dependants and its defenders," the Associated Press reported.

The AllRise group filed a dossier with the International Criminal Court Tuesday, calling for the probe.

Bolsonaro has spurred development in the Amazon during his time in office, all the while denouncing criticism of resulting damage to the massive rainforest as a scheme to repress the country's agribusiness. The president's rule has also seen environmental authorities weakened and the land protections loosened, the AP reported.

In a statement, AllRise founder Johannes Wesemann said that the Amazon's destruction affects people all over the world and called on the global court to look into Bolsonaro's role.

"Crimes against nature are crimes against humanity. Jair Bolsonaro is fueling the mass destruction of the Amazon with eyes wide open and in full knowledge of the consequences, " Wesemann said. "The ICC has a clear duty to investigate environmental crimes of such global gravity."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Lawyers Call For Investigation
A group of climate lawyers called Tuesday, Oct. 12, 2021 for the International Criminal Court to launch an investigation into Brazil's president for possible crimes against humanity for his administration's Amazon policies. An area consumed by fire and cleared is seen near Novo Progresso in Para state, Brazil, on Aug. 18, 2020. Andre Penner/AP Photo

The call comes less than three weeks before the United Nations' 26th Climate Change Conference of the Parties, known as the COP26, starts on Oct. 31 in Glasgow.

The 12-day summit aims to secure more ambitious commitments to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius with a goal of keeping it to 1.5 degrees Celsius compared with pre-industrial levels. The event also is focused on mobilizing financing to fight climate change and protecting vulnerable communities and natural habitats.

AllRise's calls for an investigation into Bolsonaro are not the first time opponents of the right wing Brazilian leader have asked the ICC to intervene.

Two years ago, a group of Brazilian lawyers and former ministers requested that the court investigate Bolsonaro for allegedly inciting the genocide of indigenous people and failing to safeguard the forests and protected lands they live in.

The court's prosecution office receives hundreds of such filings each year, detailing alleged crimes around the world. It is obliged to study them all and evaluate whether the request falls within the court's jurisdiction and, if it does, whether it merits further investigation or inclusion in one of the prosecution office's ongoing probes.

Activists are increasingly pushing for prosecution of crimes against the environment to become part of the ICC's core mission. In June a panel of international lawyers and experts published a proposed legal definition of the crime of "ecocide," saying that it is time to extend the court's founding treaty to include "protections for serious environmental harm, already recognized to be a matter of international concern."

Before Bolsonaro took office in 2019, the Brazilian Amazon hadn't recorded a year with more than 10,000 square kilometers of deforestation in over a decade. Between 2009 and 2018, the average per year was 6,500 square kilometers compared with the average of 10,500 square kilometers during Bolsonaro's term.

But preliminary figures released last month by the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research showed that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon dropped for the second consecutive month in August compared to the same period in 2020.

Wesemann, however, insists Bolsonaro needs to be held accountable for Amazon communities and for the world.

"Our initiative has strong Brazilian support, but we don't seek to speak on behalf of any Brazilian communities, nor claim to represent them," he said. "Our case aims to add an important international dimension to their struggle. The Amazon is theirs, but it is needed by us all."

Brazilian President
Climate lawyers want Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to be investigated for his administration’s policies that they say are to blame for a “widespread attack on the Amazon, its dependants and its defenders. Bolsonaro attends a housing program launch ceremony at the Planalto presidential palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, on Sept. 15, 2021. Eraldo Peres/AP Photo