Liana Georgieva Minkova, The Fifth International Crime: Reflections on the Definition of “Ecocide”. Journal of Genocide Research, 25(1) 62-83 (March 2023)
International criminal law has increasingly been seen as one of the tools that could be used to address environmental harm. In June 2021 a panel of independent experts made a major step in that direction by presenting a draft text for the crime of “ecocide” and proposing the incorporation of that crime in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) alongside other grave crimes, such as genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and aggression. This definition of “ecocide” is noteworthy for its engagement with the multiple dimensions and various manifestations of environmental harm. But some of the definition’s elements, namely its perspective on the relationship between the interests of humans and nature and the definition of the mental element of liability for “ecocide,” might present obstacles to the goal of ensuring greater environmental protection through international criminal law. In this reflection article I discuss those aspects of the proposed crime of “ecocide” and draw attention to the inadvertent consequences they might have for the message, that the criminalization of “ecocide” would convey to the international public. Despite its merits, the proposed definition of “ecocide” reinforces the problematic assumption that the welfare of the environment and that of human beings are separate things.