Crime of ecocide could transform the fight against climate change.
From oil spills to open-pit mining, clear-cut logging to heavy-net trawling, humans continue to scar the planet despite mountains of legislation, regulation and good intent.
A panel of international lawyers on Tuesday published an official legal definition of the term “ecocide,” which for decades has been condemned by conservationists and climate action campaigners but which until now has not been recognized as a crime.
Approving the right definition could pave the way for acts of environmental destruction to be prosecuted and condemned by the International Criminal Court, under the same consideration as war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocides and aggression.
After six months of deliberation, a team of international lawyers has unveiled a new legal definition of “ecocide” that, if adopted, would put environmental destruction on a par with war crimes – paving the way for the prosecution of world leaders and corporate chiefs for the worst attacks on nature.
An international team of lawyers co-chaired by Philippe Sands QC and Dior Fall Sow has presented the outcome of its work announced in November last year to develop a legal definition of ecocide. This is a crucial step towards adding ecocide to the list of other major offences recognised by the international criminal court (ICC), including crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
Legal experts from across the globe have drawn up a “historic” definition of ecocide, intended to be adopted by the international criminal court to prosecute the most egregious offences against the environment.
A panel convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation will publish the legal definition of ecocide on Tuesday, seeking to pave the way for acts of environmental destruction to be incorporated into the International Criminal Court’s mandate. It could see ecocide established alongside war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity in the Hague.
Powerful individuals behind the most devastating assaults on the environment could be put in the dock under a new legal definition of “ecocide” that a heavyweight panel of international lawyers and hardened campaigners hope will revolutionise the fight against the climate crisis.
Lawyers will take a major step this month toward putting environmental destruction on the same level as war crimes and genocide.
Campaigners hope the threat of being hauled before the court scares politicians and executives into changing their behaviour.
International lawyers, environmentalists and a growing number of world leaders say “ecocide”—widespread destruction of the environment—would serve as a “moral red line” for the planet.
A growing movement wants destruction of the environment to be treated like genocide and crimes against humanity.
Lawyers Are Working to Put ‘Ecocide’ on a Par with War Crimes. Could an International Law Hold Major Polluters to Account?
How a proposed amendment to international human rights law could prohibit the systematic destruction of nature. “Nothing concentrates the mind better than the prospect of an individual being found criminally liable” – Philippe Sands
“A CEO doesn’t want to be seen in the same bracket as a war criminal,” says Jojo Mehta of the Stop Ecocide campaign. This month a panel of top international and environmental lawyers from around the world begin drafting a legal definition of ecocide, with the goal of having it included on the statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague in the coming years.
A panel of leading lawyers has been set up to draft a legal definition of ’ecocide’ as a potential international crime that could sit alongside war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The concept would criminalise mass damage and destruction of the world’s ecosystems and could ultimately see individuals prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
International lawyers are drafting plans for a legally enforceable crime of ecocide – criminalising destruction of the world’s ecosystems – that is already attracting support from European countries and island nations at risk from rising sea levels. The aim is to draw up a legal definition of “ecocide” that would complement other existing international offences such as crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
He was recently appointed co-chair of a panel convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation to draft a legal definition of “ecocide” as a potential international crime. “The function of law, in part, is to change consciousness, and the absence of any international crime concerning massive damage to the environment basically sends a signal that it’s OK to do that,” says Sands. “I have kids and I want to do my bit for future generations.”
From the Pope to Greta Thunberg, there are growing calls for the crime of “ecocide” to be recognised in international criminal law – but could such a law ever work? Co-founder Jojo Mehta is interviewed by Sophie Yeo.