1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Brazil lawyers call for ICC to investigate Bolsonaro

November 29, 2019

A rights group wants the International Criminal Court to investigate President Bolsonaro for genocide against indigenous groups. The group has accused him of a role in the deaths of indigenous leaders and Amazon fires.

President Jair Bolsonaro
Image: Reuters/A. Machado

A group of Brazilian lawyers and former ministers requested that the International Criminal Court (ICC) investigate President Jair Bolsonaro, claiming he incites the genocide of indigenous people.

The Arns Commission for Human Rights Defense lodged the complaint on Thursday with ICC top prosecutor Fatou Bensouda.

The commission denounced what it called "widespread, systematic attacks'' on indigenous groups as part of its claim.

Bensouda must now research the accusation before reaching a decision on whether to follow through with the investigation in a preliminary chamber.

Systematic attacks against indigenous groups

The lawyers who filed the suit claim that Bolsonaro "decided to destroy the Amazon under the pretext of developing the region," according to Brazilian newspaper Estadao.

They also accused Bolsanaro's administration of passing policies that create violence and conflicts in the countryside that directly harm indigenous groups.

Lawyer Belisario dos Santos highlighted the murder of indigenous leader Paulino Guajajara on November 1 as an example of state-enabled violence against indigenous peoples.

Government hate speech "has clear consequences in their lives" he added.

The group also mentioned the numerous Amazonian forest fires as an example of the Bolsanaro administration's failure to protect the environment and livelihood of indigenous groups.

Brazilian indigenous people

What happens next?

Bensouda must now request further information from states, UN bodies, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations and other relevant sources, before she makes an application for a pre-trial chamber to begin investigations.

The Hague-based ICC receives many complaints annually. Most do not lead to investigations or indictments.

However, if convicted Bolsanaro could face a prison sentence of 30 years to life, as well as fines and confiscation of property.

Bolsonaro dismissed the accusations on Thursday.

The Arns Commission contains six former Cabinet ministers who are part of Brazil's political opposition as well as lawyers, journalists, analysts and environmentalists.

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Kate Martyr Editor and video producer at DW's Asia Desk and News Digital