Several human rights organizations filed a claim before the Permanent People’s Tribunal against President Bolsonaro for his actions during the spread against the COVID-19 pandemic.
In particular, the organizations submitted that, by profoundly abusing his institutional powers, the President of Brazil used a serious health emergency, which called for adequate and well-targeted measures, as a political stage through which to endanger historically discriminated populations, including indigenous people and several other minorities. Furthermore, they claimed that his failure to tackle the pandemic – as characterized by a lack of administrative political, economic and cultural support for health structures, resources and professionals in all phases of the pandemic – triggered widespread violence among the most vulnerable communities and made it impossible for them to access public services, thus violating the fundamental rights to health, dignity, and life.
By decision published on 1 September 2022, the Permanent People’s Tribunal found that Bolsonaro's actions may have maliciously caused the death of several tens of thousands of people (around 680,000) through his decision, taken in his capacity as head of the Executive Power of the State, to reject the policy of isolation, prevention and vaccination in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, and constitute a crime against humanity. Most importantly, the Tribunal recommended that the cases and charges against Bolsonaro’s actions be sent to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, in view of the opening of formal investigations by the Prosecutor for alleged crimes against humanity.
The Permanent People’s Tribunal is an international opinion tribunal based in Rome. The Tribunal does not have a penal character, nor a formal jurisdictional nature. Hence, its decisions are not binding and not legally enforceable. However, its findings against Bolsonaro may serve as a warning at the international level and have ethical as well as sociological implications.