Peoples' Tribunal convicts Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity

The condemnation concerns the consequences of Bolsonaro's denialism in tackling the covid-19 pandemic for black people, indigenous peoples and health professionals

The Tribunal Permanente dos Povos (TPP) (the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal in English), has convicted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro of crimes against humanity and gross violation of human rights for his actions during the Covid-19 pandemic. The trial that analysed the damage caused to the black population, indigenous peoples and health professionals was held in May this year and the sentence passed on 1 September.

Public Services International (PSI) was represented by the sub-regional secretary for Brazil, Denise Motta Dau, who was among the union leaders who participated in the acts of denunciation, and by the following organisations: National Federation of Nurses (FNE), National Confederation of Social Security Workers (CNTSS) and National Confederation of Health Workers (CNTS).  

During the reading of the sentence, jurist Eugenio Raúl Zaffaroni, judge of the 50th edition of the TPP and former Minister of Justice of Argentina, said that by considering "the multiple elements of testimonial and documentary evidence provided", the TPP judged that Bolsonaro's actions may have "maliciously caused the death of several tens of thousands of people 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". The sentence further recommends that the cases and charges against Bolsonaro's actions be sent to the International Criminal Court.

At the opening of the session, Raquel Dodge, former Attorney General of the Republic, greeted the denouncing parties, the relatives of covid victims and the professors who contributed to the writing of the petition and stated that "the denunciations […] will help us defend the Democratic State of Law". The Arns Commission, the Black Coalition for Rights and APIB: Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil also signed the denunciations.

Health workers

Representing PSI, Shirley Morales, president of the National Federation of Nurses - FNE, said during the concluding address, that the Tribunal’s decision is a form of justice for those who lost their lives while working to serve the population. "Today we have taken the first step because we are going to have many more convictions. Our country that was a reference from the point of view of public health and the vaccination system was not able to work well because of Bolsonaro's actions. The efforts of health workers who have fought so hard to defend our lives will not be in vain."

Permanent Peoples' Tribunal 

The Permanent Peoples' Tribunal does not have a penal character, it is an international court of opinion that judges crimes committed against peoples and minorities. However, Bolsonaro's convictions serve as a warning and have ethical and sociological implications.

Founded in 1979 in Italy, it was inspired by the Russel Tribunal, organised by British philosopher Bertrand Russel, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature. Among the crimes investigated by the Russel Tribunal are those of the dictatorships in Brazil, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia, judged between 1974 and 1976. At the time, the verdict was that the authorities of the four countries committed "serious, repeated and systematic" violations against human rights, which constitutes a crime against humanity.

The Argentine dictatorship was one of the first cases tried after the creation of the TPP. Human rights violations in the former Yugoslavia, Turkey (against the Kurds) and against immigrant and refugee populations in different parts of the world have also been tried.