Brazil medics urge ICC to probe Bolsonaro virus 'crimes'

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 28 2020 06:02 AM

THE HAGUE - Brazilian health workers urged the International Criminal Court on Monday to investigate President Jair Bolsonaro's government for crimes against humanity over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

A dossier of evidence was handed to the Hague-based court by a group of unions that claim to represent more than one million healthcare staff in Brazil, which has the world's highest virus death count after the United States.

The ICC -- which was set up in 2002 to achieve justice for the world's worst crimes including war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide -- has no obligation to consider such complaints.

In a statement, the unions accused Bolsonaro's administration of being "criminally negligent in its management of the Covid-19 pandemic -- risking the lives of healthcare professionals and of members of the Brazilian society."

"The unions believe it is the first suit of its kind to be filed against a government for large-scale death and illness due to public health failings," they added.

Far-right leader Bolsonaro has downplayed the pandemic, comparing the virus to a "little flu" and attacking stay-at-home measures imposed by local authorities to contain it.

Bolsonaro tested positive for the virus himself on July 7 but said on Saturday he was now negative -- crediting his controversial use of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, whose efficacy against COVID-19 has not been proven.

Brazil has recorded almost 2.42 million cases and more than 87,000 deaths.

Bolsonaro's government "should be held accountable for its callous response to the pandemic", said Marcio Monzane of UNI Americas, the organization that led the legal action. 

"Filing a case with the International Criminal Court is a drastic measure, but Brazilians face an extremely dire and dangerous situation created by Bolsonaro's deliberate decisions," he said.