International Treaties

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Environmental Crime Legal Framework in Brazil

Article 225 of the Federal Constitution states: “All have the right to an ecologically balanced environment which is an asset of common use and essential to a healthy quality of life and both the Government and the community shall have the duty to defend and preserve it for present and future generations.”

The Federal Constitution also contains provisions that allocate competences across the three levels of government to legislate and protect the environment.

Featured Legislation

1981: The National Environmental Policy Act was passed, establishing standards that make sustainable development possible, using mechanisms and instruments that are capable of ensuring greater protection for the environment.

1997: The National Water Resources Policy Act was signed, creating a national water resources management system.

2000: The National System of Conservation Units Act was approved, overseeing the conservation of nature; sustainable development; scientific research, education and eco-tourism.

2002: Decree No. 4.297 (ruling on Ecological-Economic Zoning of Brazil) was implemented. This Decree is composed of 22 articles and divided into five Chapters. It regulates article 9(II) of Law No. 6.938 of 31 August 1981, which established criteria for the Ecological-Economic Zoning of Brazil (ZEE) as an instrument of the National Policy of the Environment. The Decree regulates main objectives and principles, implementation criteria and contents of the ZEE. Particular attention is devoted to the use, collection, safeguard and publication of the data and information.

2007: Decree 6.040 was passed, laying the groundwork for a national policy on sustainable development and traditional people and communities.

2008: Decree No. 6.514 was enacted, establishing penalties and administrative offences for any illegal activity contaminating the environment. It specifies values to be paid and penal proceedings according to the different illegal environmental activities.

2009: Law 12.187 was signed, creating a national climate change policy.

2010: Law 12.305 was passed, creating a national solid waste policy.

2012: Decree 7.747 was inaugurated, creating a framework for the protection of Indigenous land.

2015: Decree No. 8.400 was announced. This Presidential Decree specifies the baselines along “the continental and insular Brazilian coasts" of Brazil. It declares the Baseline of Brazil to be formed by the combination of Straight Baselines (SBL) and Normal Baselines (NBL), according to the definitions provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The Baseline of Brazil is defined solely for the delimitation of the limits of the territorial sea, of the contiguous zone, of the exclusive economic zone and of the continental shelf, in accordance with the provisions of Law nº 8.617, of 4 January 1993.

2015: Law 13.123 was created, presenting a national biodiversity policy which targets the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising out of the use of genetic resources and of associated traditional knowledge.

2018: The Intersectoral Strategy for the Reduction of Losses and Food Waste in Brazil was tabled. This Intersectoral Strategy aims at reducing Losses and Food Waste in Brazil (PDA). Its General Objective is: Coordinate actions aimed at preventing and reducing food losses and waste in Brazil, through more integrated and intersectoral management of government and society initiatives, in line with the National Food and nutrition security Policy. Its Specific Objectives are: 1. Encourage research to determine the causes and possible solutions for PDA in Brazil; 2. Foster technological innovation and social technologies aimed at reducing PDA; 3. Support the design of quantification methodology for PDA in Brazil; 4. Monitor and contribute to the discussions on the theme of PDA in the international forums of which Brazil is a part; 5. Support educational campaigns, communication actions and the dissemination of good practices among the population, aiming at preventing food waste; 6. Strengthen and improve public policies that directly or indirectly influence the reduction of PDA; and 7. Propose changes to the existing legal frameworks in Brazil, as well as support the approval of bills in process, in order to improve the flow of food donation. The Strategy is divided into four major Axes, which in turn are divided into Lines of Action. Each Axis presents a brief introduction and a summary of the main points and bottlenecks identified by the CAISAN Technical Committee.

Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

  • Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro has dismantled environmental agencies by approving 600 administrative and rules changes via an executive order. The result of such draconian politics is massive environmental deregulation, which has led to a 34% increase in deforestation in the last two years. Two Indigenous leaders — Kayapo Chief Raoni Metuktire, and Paiter Surui Chief Almir Narayamoga Surui — are requesting the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague investigate President Bolsonaro for “crimes against humanity.” The Bolsonaro government has indirectly facilitated the invasion of more than 20,000 illegal miners into Indigenous territories through the underfunding of environmental agencies. A report reveals that the Bolsonaro administration has systematically slashed the budget for environmental monitoring by 9.8% in 2020, then by another 27.4% in 2021. Such decisions have a disproportionate effect on traditional communities and Indigenous peoples: Normative Ruling no.9, for example, permits private landowners to claim land in Indigenous territories, provided the Indigenous land hasn’t been fully demarcated. Draft Law 191/2020, on the other hand, regulates economic activities, such as mining and logging, and the construction of hydroelectric dams within Indigenous territories.
  • International environmental crimes are being perpetrated against the indigenous peoples of the Brazilian Amazon. Environmental activists are pleading with the International Criminal Court (ICC) to rely on the language of the Rome Statute which would allow the ICC to prosecute such environmental crimes as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Questions regarding the viability of ICC prosecutions have come to fore, highlighting the role the Rome Statute and the Office of the Prosecutor should play in investigating both crimes against humanity and acts of genocide carried out against the indigenous peoples of Brazil.

References and Further Reading


Ministry of the Environment:

Phone: (61) 2028-1057/1289/1422