Brazilian Senate recommends President Jair Bolsonaro be indicted for Crimes Against Humanity


“Defending the Right to Life and Other Human Rights During the Coronavirus Pandemic;” Lawyers for Humanity, Updated May 7, 2020, updated October 26, 2021.

Today’s update and a previous update to the above article follow:

October 26, 2021

The Brazilian Senate has recommended that some 70 persons, including President Jair Bolsonaro, be prosecuted for a number of crimes related to mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has cost over 600,000 lives in the country.

The Congressional Investigating Committee’s report, which the Senate approved today, estimates that 120,000 persons died as a result of Bolsonaro’s crimes. The Senate recommended that Bolsonaro and others, including a general who served as one of four health ministers, be prosecuted for crimes against humanity.

It is quite possible that the International Criminal Court (ICC) will open proceedings against Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity. Brazil ratified the Rome Staute of the ICC in 2002, conferring jurisdiction on that body.

It is not likely, however, that Bolsonaro will be prosecuted while he is in power, as the Attorney General is his appointee. If Lula were to win the presidential election, however, prosecution could become a real possibility.

The case is particularly significant because the legal grounds justifying indictment of Bolsonaro could apply to other national leaders, such as Donald Trump, who might also be accused of crimes against humanity–and even one day prosecuted by the International Criminal Court.

1) Naiara Galarraga Gortázar (São Paulo), “El Senado de Brasil pide el procesamiento de Bolsonaro por crímenes contra la humanidad por la covid-19; El informe final de la comisión de investigación estima que “la estrategia macabra” del Gobierno causó 120.000 muertes evitables, ” El país, el 26 de octubre 2021 (19:36, Actualizad 21:24 EDT);

2) Redação, “CPI da Pandemia aprova relatório final de Renan Calheiros por 7 votos a 4; Texto pede o indiciamento de 78 pessoas, entre elas o presidente Jair Bolsonaro, e 2 empresas por crimes relacionados à pandemia,” Veja,o 26 de outubro 2021 (20h25, atualizado às 20h38).

October 20, 2021

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro may be indicted for mass murder and crimes against humanity for his malfeasance during the Covid-19 pandemic. A Congressional Investigation Report has recommended such actions, with supporting documentation.


1) Tom Phillips (Rio de Janeiro), “Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, Covid inquiry finds Brazilian president savaged for ‘macabre’ and ‘slovenly’ response to pandemic and ‘deliberate neglect’ of indigenous people,” The Guardian, October 20, 2021 (16:22 BST);

2) Veja Redação, “CPI da Pandemia pede indiciamento de Bolsonaro em relatório final; Relator Renan Calheiros faz a leitura do documento, que pede o indiciamento de Jair Bolsonaro; votação deverá ficar para a próxima semana,” Veja, o 20 de outubro 2021 (às 08h20, atualizado às 13h53).

3) “Aziz: Tipificações de genocídio e homicídio foram retiradas do relatório; Presidente Jair Bolsonaro deverá ser indiciado por crimes como infração de medida sanitária, charlatanismo, crime contra a humanidade e de responsabilidade,” Veja, o 19 de outubro (Atualizado às 22h56, Publicado em 19 out 2021 às 22h44).

4) Ricardo Rangel (opinião), “O relatório da CPI explica muito. E pergunta ainda mais; É inacreditável que, diante de tanto horror, Bolsonaro não seja denunciado, não sofra impeachment e ainda tenha apoio popular,” Veja, o 20 de outubro 2021 (16:33 h, atualizado às 16:36 h).

The indictment of Bolsonaro would be an important precedent for indicting other public officials for flouting science and politicizing the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, with the foreseeable consequence of the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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