Bolsonaro genocide is rhetoric without legal basis, experts say

The Bolsonaro surname associated with the term ‘genocide’ has become one of the most discussed topics on social media after Youtuber Felipe Neto was summoned earlier this week to provide clarification for using the term to refer to the president as the Republic.

In Brasilia, this Thursday (18), also on the basis of the law on national security, the military dictatorship, demonstrators were arrested for presenting drawings associating the president with a Nazi swastika and a poster with the words “Bolsonaro genocida”.

On the same day, a preliminary decision suspended the investigation against Felipe Neto, opened on the basis of a crime report presented by the adviser and son of the president, Carlos Bolsonaro (Republicanos-RJ).

International law specialists heard by Folha differentiate a possible criminalization in the criminal sphere from the rhetorical use of the term to denounce the omissions and errors of the Bolsonaro government in the face of the worsening of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The crime of genocide is defined by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide as acts aimed at destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such.

It was the first treaty approved by the UN in 1948, under pressure on the Holocaust in Nazi Germany from Adolph Hitler, which is said to have killed more than 6 million people.

Invented by international law expert Raphael Lenkin, the term genocide saw its definition reiterated by the Rome Statute in 2002, a document that created the ICC (International Criminal Court) to try the crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

The only Brazilian member of the court to date, from 2003 to 2016, Sylvia Steiner says she sees no parallel between the actions of the federal government and the crime of genocide, which is only considered when there is evidence of its existence. of an intentional act. extermination policy.

“The behavior described in the law that is practiced against a national, ethnic and religious group and with the aim of destroying that group in whole or in part. If you don’t have all three, it could be any other crime. It can be a crime of persecution, murder, extermination, but it is not a crime of genocide, ”he said.

A researcher at FGV-Direito in São Paulo, she wonders about the fact that the secular population has no obligation to know the term, that their understanding has already been pacified by a set of international decisions. Therefore, in his view, the term genocide does not apply.

“I cannot say that there is a malicious intention to exterminate the Brazilian population or a part of the Brazilian population. I think the use of the term genocide is rhetorical so that everyone can understand the gravity of the situation. No one can deny that, ”he said.

Professor Carolina Claro, of the Institute of International Relations at UnB (University of Brasilia), also says that the use of this term requires special attention, but defends the government’s responsibility for omissions. On the other hand, she claims that from a sociological point of view, the concept is more malleable.

“The technical term should be used with caution, not least because we cannot convict a person until the body of evidence has been determined and before there is a fair trial, but I understand that the use of this word has a much more social character. connotation and to show that there is a problem, ”he said, referring to the use made by the black and indigenous movement.

A human rights lawyer, she says that because the behavior in the pandemic does not target a specific group, characteristic of genocide, it is easier to characterize government actions as crimes against humanity, which encompasses a broader role. conducted, including the practice of extermination.

“Maybe talking about crimes against humanity is a little less powerful, although just as serious, than using the word genocide,” he adds.

What is genocide?

The 1948 United Nations Convention and the Rome Statute define genocide as acts aimed at destroying, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such, such as:

Homicide of members of the group Serious harm to the physical or mental integrity of the members of the group Intentional submission of the group to living conditions with a view to causing its total or partial physical destruction Imposition of birth prevention measures within the group Transfer, by force, children of the group to another group

Professor at the law school of USP and coordinator of a study group on the protection of minorities, Paulo Borba Casella also defends Bolsonaro’s responsibility for crimes against humanity. In the absence of a specific adjective for it, he says it is not inappropriate to use the term genocide.

“It’s driving that is not just silent. It is deliberately destructive. This is where genocidal characterization comes in. From the point of view of harm, it is clearly placed, ”he said, citing both Bolsonaro’s speeches against social isolation, as well as the government’s refusal to buy vaccines.

Also professor of international law at USP, Maristela Basso agrees. “When Felipe Neto says that he is genocide, he means that he is a man capable of understanding the consequences of his actions. Even so, he denies it and by denying, he lets it happen. By allowing this to happen, by omission, it resulted in the deaths of thousands of people.

In 2017, with State Deputy Janaína Paschoal and Professor Hélio Bicudo, authors of the dismissal of former President Dilma Rousseff, she denounced the Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro for genocide and crimes against humanity, which Basso defines as “crimes against us”. The evidence is being analyzed.

Steiner disagrees with the others and says he sees no contextual evidence to prove that the Brazilian government is committing crimes against humanity.

“The crime against humanity demands that there be a so-called systematic and widespread attack against the civilian population. The concept of attack is also already affirmed in case law. It does not necessarily have to be an armed attack, but a plan, a policy of attack against a specific population.

The former judge says that in the case of the pandemic, one possible way to hold the president accountable is to report him to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for injury to life and health.

Professor Casella agrees that the ICC would not be the appropriate forum to judge Bolsonaro’s conduct.

The complaint against him in 2020, for “serious and deadly failures”, was temporarily closed the same year, but for him it is because the court is focused on the trial of crimes committed in the context of armed conflict.

“It is important to bring it before the Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The commission and the tribunal have jurisprudence relating to crimes committed by states, ”he said.

On Monday (15), the organizations Arns Commission and Conectas denounced President Bolsonaro at the UN Human Rights Council.

Casella says that when it comes to actions against indigenous peoples, it is appropriate to denounce the genocide against Bolsonaro. In this regard, Steiner agrees.

“Certain behaviors, for example, that of forcing indigenous communities to force the territories they traditionally occupy, this may be a means of eliminating this group,” said the former ICC judge.

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