Ecocide Now a Word, a Reality and an International Crime?

  • Commissioned by the Stop Ecocide Foundation, an expert drafting panel of 12 highly renowned international criminal and environmental lawyers from around the world has just concluded six months of deliberations. 
  • The result: a legal definition of “ecocide” as a potential 5th international crime, to sit alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

The Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide, chaired by barrister and author Philippe Sands QC (UK) together with UN jurist and former prosecutor Dior Fall Sow (Senegal), was convened in late 2020 at a powerfully symbolic moment, 75 years after the terms “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” were first used at Nuremberg.  The project emerged in response to a request from parliamentarians in the governing parties of Sweden.

The proposed definition will now be made available for states to consider, and will henceforth be visible on the newly launched Ecocide Law website, an academic and legal resource hub co-managed by the Stop Ecocide Foundation and the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law.

Jojo Mehta, Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation and convenor of the panel, said: “This is an historic moment.  This expert panel came together in direct response to a growing political appetite for real answers to the climate and ecological crisis. The moment is right – the world is waking up to the danger we are facing if we continue along our current trajectory.”

Support for an ecocide law criminalising mass damage and destruction of ecosystems is gaining momentum around the world with recorded interest from both island nations (Vanuatu and the Maldives) and European states (France, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg). It has been endorsed by high-profile figures such as the Pope, Greta Thunberg and Dr Jane Goodall. Belgium is the first European nation to have raised criminalizing ecocide at the International Criminal Court, and the European Parliament has now supported in principle on several occasions.

MEP Marie Toussaint who has made it her mission to progress recognition of ecocide by the EU, is delighted: “After years and years of non-stop mobilisation and struggle all over the world, recognition of ecocide has gained strength and public support. This recognition is essential if we want to protect all life on our planet, as well as peace and human rights.”

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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