Prosecute Brazilian President Bolsonaro for genocide!

Protesting indigenous women in Brazil Indigenous women in Brazil protesting the clearing of their ancestral forest (© Apib Comunicação - CC BY-SA 2.0)

Brazilian lawyers and human rights activists are calling on the International Criminal Court in The Hague to investigate President Bolsonaro for inciting crimes against humanity and the murder of 300 indigenous people of the South American country.

Call to action

To: Ms. Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court

“Investigate Brazilian President Bolsonaro for inciting genocide and other human rights violations.”

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On November 27, 2019, the Brazilian Human Rights Advocacy Collective (CADHu) and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Human Rights Commission (Arns Commission) delivered a 71-page report to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

The groups called on the prosecutor Ms. Fatou Bensouda to investigate President Bolsonaro for incitement to genocide and systematic attacks on indigenous peoples.

Former Brazilian Justice Minister José Carlos Dias told the Guardian that Brazil is in an emergency situation, prompting the groups to take this drastic step against their own president.

The Bolsonaro government is inciting attacks on Brazil’s indigenous peoples and their land on the pretext of economic development. The violation of the rights of the almost one million indigenous people in Brazil is systematic and premeditated:

Bolsonaro’s declared aim is to exploit the indigenous peoples’ protected areas, opening their forests to mining companies, loggers, soy farmers, cattle breeders and the sugar cane industry.

Eloísa Machado, professor of constitutional law, points out that the Brazilian national judicial system is not capable of conducting an independent and impartial investigation of President Bolsonaro. The conditions in the country are reminiscent of the times of the Brazilian military dictatorship.

The Brazilian human rights activists have pinned their hopes on the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, urging her to gather information and decide whether to request an investigation of Bolsonaro.


Brazilian lawyers and an influential human rights group, including six former government ministers, want to indict the extreme right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro before the International Criminal Court for inciting genocide against Brazil’s indigenous population.

The Brazilian Human Rights Advocacy Collective (CADHu) and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Human Rights Commission (Arns Commission) delivered an “informative note” to Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor at the international court in The Hague, in late November 2019. It called for a “preliminary investigation of incitement to genocide and widespread systematic attacks against indigenous peoples” by Bolsonaro.

This would involve Bensouda seeking information from Brazilian state governments, other countries, the United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations, NGOs and other sources to determine whether to request authorization for an investigation.

The note argues that Bolsonaro’s words, actions and omissions with regard to environmental rights in Brazil can be regarded as attacks on the civilian population.

In early March 2020, a delegation of indigenous people from Brazil reported murders and land theft to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

On February 5, 2020, the Bolsonaro government submitted Bill 191/2020 to the Brazilian parliament, which would open indigenous protected areas to mining, the oil industry, hydroelectric plants and industrial agriculture. A few days later, at a meeting on February 18, a delegation of indigenous people called on the speaker of parliament Rodrigo Maia to reject the bill.

According to Human Rights Watch, Bolsonaro’s policy encourages criminal networks that practice illegal logging in the Amazon and that threaten and use violence against indigenous people, residents and environmental authorities.

20,000 illegal gold prospectors have already entered the Yanomami reserve. The intruders are clearing the rainforest, destroying river basins and contaminating them with highly toxic mercury, which they use to bind the gold particles.

The prospectors carry diseases for which the indigenous people have no immunity. Drinking, prostitution and violence are rife in their camps.

The indigenous people are resisting the intrusion and demand that their constitutional rights and recognized territories be respected. Bolsonaro systematically incites hate toward indigenous people, describing them as “animals in a zoo”, “prehistoric men”, and an obstacle to the country’s development.

Instead of evicting the intruders from the protected areas, Bolsonaro submitted a bill on February 5, 2020 to officially open the indigenous areas for mining and logging, as well as soybean, sugar cane and cattle farming.

The impact of his policies over the past year has been dramatic: 9,166 square kilometers of forest – an area more than five times the size of London – have been cut down or torched, according to the state institute for satellite monitoring, INPE. The deforestation rate has thus increased by 85% since Bolsonaro took office. Because the figures on environmental destruction did not show him in a favorable light, Bolsonaro summarily dismissed the director of the INPE institute. Bolsonaro claimed that environmentalists and foreign NGOs were responsible for the devastating forest fires.

Further information (in Portuguese):

APIB, Jan. 24, 2020: Articulação dos Povos Indígenas aciona PGR contra Bolsonaro por crime de racismo


To: Ms. Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court

Dear Ms. Bensouda,

According to human rights, indigenous and environmental organizations, the Brazilian government led by President Jair Bolsonaro is committing grave human rights violations.

We urge you, as prosecutor at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, to open a preliminary investigation into President Bolsonaro’s incitement to genocide and widespread systematic attacks on indigenous peoples in Brazil.

The Brazilian Human Rights Advocacy Collective (CADHu) and the Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns Human Rights Commission (Arns Commission) delivered an “informative note” to that effect to you on November 27, 2019.

Yours faithfully,

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