The exercise of vigilance



People's Court to judge Jair Bolsonaro's crimes against humanity

It was 1966. Lord Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher and Nobel prize for literature, revolted by the crimes in the Vietnam War, called for an International Tribunal on war crimes committed by the United States. The Russell Tribunal, as it came to be called, organized, in 1967, two sessions in Stockholm (Sweden) and Roskilde (Denmark), under the presidency of Jean-Paul Sartre, as Russell, aged 93, could not travel.

Sartre said that "every free man who is interested in an important social problem can, with other equally free men, make a judgment, a judgment which can in turn lead other men to judge as he does". Other Court sessions took place, as in 1973, on human rights violations in dictatorships in Brazil and Chile.

After that session on Latin America, the tradition of the Russell Court was resumed by the Permanent Peoples' Court (TPP), created in Bologna (Italy) in 1979, on the initiative of Senator Lelio Basso, a lawyer and former resistance fighter against fascism. even without having status nor recognition by any State, this court of opinion has become a permanent forum for the presentation of complaints by peoples regarding the absence or impotence of protection under international law. And so it serves to articulate this alternative vision of international criminal law, in defense of the rights of peoples, many times having contributed to pressure international courts, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), in The Hague (Netherlands), to better and more quickly carry out their functions.

The holding in Brazil of the 50th session of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal should examine the violations against human rights and crimes against humanity committed by the President of the Republic, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, and his government, affecting black populations, indigenous peoples and workers in the pandemic of Covid-19. Two hearings will be held on the mornings of May 24 and 25, virtually, in Rome, where the entity's headquarters are located, and live, at the Faculty of Law of USP, in São Paulo.

The complaint was filed by the Arns Commission, the Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Apib), the Black Coalition for Rights and the Public Services International (ISP), with the support of the Indigenous Missionary Council (Cimi) and other organizations linked to the defense of human rights. The panel of judges will be chaired by the eminent Italian jurist Luigi Ferrajoli, professor at the University of Rome. The jury will have twelve members, from different countries in the North and South hemispheres, specialists in the areas of law, social sciences and health. The indictment was sent to the President of the Republic and the Brazilian government will be able to exercise its right of defense by sending a representative who will be able to intervene in the debates.

Why is the Court relevant? Philosopher Jacques Derrida highlighted the immense value “of carrying out, as honestly as possible, an investigation into a policy, into a political project and its execution. The objective is not to reach a verdict that results in sanctions, but to deepen the vigilance of the citizens of the world”.

On the other hand, the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal takes place in Brazil amidst a worrying situation, in which the Chief Executive is stirring up the escalation of a coup against the rule of law. No political actor elected after the 1988 Constitution set out, like the current president, with the aim of destroying public policies built, aiming to become an autocrat.

This session of the TPP should impact the political conscience of Brazilians, both in terms of the crimes committed by the current federal government and its total impunity, and should also alert citizens to the risks of political backlash nailed openly by the president. There couldn't be a better time.

*Paulo Sergio Pinheiro he is a retired professor of political science at USP; former Minister of Human Rights; UN Special Rapporteur on Syria and member of the Arns Commission. Author, among other books, of Strategies of illusion: the world revolution and Brazil, 1922-1935 (Company of Letters).

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