03:29 GMT03 March 2021
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    Since the election of President Jair Bolsonaro in 2019, Brazil has seen a spike in the destruction of its rainforests and traditional indigenous territory. The Brazilian leader has since had multiple charges of human rights violations leveled against him.

    Indigenous leaders have called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, for alleged environmental violations that involve crimes against humanity, UOL news reports on Saturday.

    According to the outlet, Raoni Metuktire and Almir Surui have issued a 68-page complaint with aid from French Lawyer William Bourdon.

    Raoni Metuktire's 35-year old grandson, Patxon, has aided his grandfather, who is the chief of the Kayapo people and fights for the preservation of the Amazon rainforest and indigenous culture.

    “My grandfather thought it was important to make the complaint because the chief of the nation should protect communities, but he is not doing so.

    Patxon added that people "are feeling endorsed to commit crimes, as the president supports them”.

    “My grandfather believes the Brazilian population cannot make the president stop acting against the indigenous people. He keeps violating our rights, so this is our last resort. My grandfather is ready to testify and clarify anything for prosecutors if needed".

    ​Upon being charged, the next step is a preliminary analysis by the Office of the Prosecutor in order to determine if the file against Bolsonaro will lead to an investigation.

    According to Bourdon, who is known for taking up international human rights causes such as supporting African activists, and representing prominent whistleblowers Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, the case could aid in highlighting 'ecocide' as a crime that should be judged by the ICC, which was set up to prosecute war crimes, genocide, and other crimes against humanity.

    Ecocide is illegal human activity that breaches principles of environmental justice by causing substantial damage or destruction of ecosystems or a species, natural resources. It is not currently punishable by any international body.

    Bourdon called the accusations “a matter of great urgency”.

    “We are running against the clock, considering the devastation of the Amazon", he added.

    He said that the crimes which Bolsonaro is accused of can be considered crimes against humanity but also clarified that these were committed "in a broader context of environmental crime".

    This marks the fifth indictment against Bolsonaro at the Netherlands-based criminal caught. Among the other charges against Bolsonaro at the ICC, three related to his government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, and the fourth is over the rights of indigenous populations in Brazil.

    ​Since Bolsonaro's election victory in 2019, Brazil's rainforest and indigenous territories have come under threat. Deforestation has seen a 50% spike in two years and reached has now highest level since 2008. 

    Bolsonaro also oversaw a 43% decline in fines for environmental crime in the Amazon basin the year of his election and the federal government slashed the budget for enforcement by 27.4% in 2020, The Guardian reported.

    Tags:
    indigenous rights, Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro
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