Danuta Palarczyk, Ecocide Before the International Criminal Court: Simplicity is Better Than an Elaborate Embellishment, Criminal Law Forum (February 20, 2023)

In 2021, with their proposals of a new definition of ‘ecocide’, the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide (‘IEPLDE’) and the Promise Institute for Human Rights (‘UCLA’) Group of Experts reignited the discussion on expanding the International Criminal Court’s (‘ICC’ or ‘Court’) jurisdiction over the gravest instances of environmental degradation. The proposed definitions form part of the broader campaign towards the international criminalisation of ‘ecocide’ and its prosecution before the ICC. This discussion challenges such ambitions, arguing that, in its current form, the Court would be unable to produce environmentally-satisfactory results. It underscores that the human-centric fundaments of modern international criminal law (‘ICL’) prevent the ICC from fusing different approaches and values governing international environmental law (‘IEL’) into its institutional design. A middle-ground is proposed instead: rather than surrendering the pursuit of environmental justice before the ICC or risking a ‘symbolic’ revolutionisation, the focus should be re-oriented on maximising the ‘environmental’ potential of the current statutory framework. This approach aligns with the strive towards greater ‘internationalisation’ of international courts and tribunals, encouraging more eager analysis of their statutory provisions from multiple perspectives and in the context of a variety of cross-sectoral international law norms, objectives, principles, and approaches. Two possible directions for progression in that regard are proposed: (i) more resourceful translation of environmental realities into the substantive prohibitions of war crimes and (ii) more active reliance on and application of a ‘greened’ scope of Articles 21(3) and 7(1) of the Statute.