Darryl Robinson, Ecocide: Puzzles and Possibilities, Journal of International Criminal Justice 20(2) (May 27, 2022)
Popular interest in a new crime of ‘ecocide’ has recently surged. The proposed crime seeks to repudiate and stigmatize the most egregious environmental wrongdoing and would complement other efforts to curb the ongoing destruction. In June 2021, an international panel proposed a definition of the crime. Initial academic commentaries, many of them critical, reflect entirely understandable first reactions. However, combining international criminal law (ICL) and environmental law raises fascinating new issues that are not initially obvious. This article surveys the main issues in defining ecocide. For example, is a crime of ecocide a worthy idea? Is the best approach to amend the ICC Statute or to start with a smaller group of supportive states? It also introduces the main drafting options and controversies. The hardest puzzle, by far, is how to align ecocide with environmental law. Some seemingly simple solutions would entail rejecting environmental law; the author argues that there are principled, normative, and strategic reasons why a crime of ecocide should reflect environmental law, not reject it. The article shows that each available solution invites plausible concerns. Thus, a conversation about defining ecocide must be a nuanced one about which options are least problematic. The article outlines possible future directions for exploration; with further deliberation, more elegant criteria may yet be found.