Environmental campaigners have launched an official complaint at the International Criminal Court (ICC), accusing Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, of “crimes against humanity” for his alleged role in Amazon deforestation.

The request for the ICC to begin legal proceedings against Bolsonaro was made by Austrian climate activists AllRise, marking the first time campaigners have sought to directly link deforestation to fatalities. 

“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,” AllRise founder Johannes Wesemann said. 

The ICC has a clear duty to investigate environmental crimes of such global gravity.

AllRise’s dossier filed with the ICC claims that actions taken by Bolsonaro and his administration are “directly connected to the negative impacts of climate change around the world,” arguing they have worked to “systematically remove, neuter, and eviscerate laws, agencies and individuals that serve to protect the Amazon.”

Due to the deforestation that has taken place in the Amazon, experts working for AllRise estimate that, with 400,000 hectares of rainforest being lost each year, the environmental impact will cause over 180,000 excess heat-related deaths around the world this century. 

This is not the first time that a group has sought to launch a case against Bolsonaro over concerns about his alleged actions in the Amazon, with three other complaints made since 2016. However, the ICC did not proceed with legal proceedings following those requests.

Bolsonaro’s office has not yet publicly responded to the latest attempt to launch a case at the ICC. In the past, he has stated his goal for Brazil to be carbon neutral by 2050 and expressed a desire to end “illegal deforestation” in the Amazon, requesting support from foreign governments to do so. Despite these statements, former Brazilian ministers have argued that deforestation is “not the result of a lack of money” but down to “the government’s deliberate failure of care.”

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