“Ecocide” may soon be punishable under international law

Climate Justice

“Ecocide” may soon be punishable under international law

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New countries are backing a movement to make environmental damage punishable under the International Criminal Court.

A push to make mass ecological damage an enforceable crime under the International Criminal Court has had support from the small island states Vanuatu and the Maldives, and the effort is now gaining traction in Europe as well.  

According to Stop Ecocide, French president Emmanuel Macron has promised to champion the idea now under active consideration at the ICC, and the Belgian government has also pledged diplomatic action to back it.

Preparatory work is underway on a legal definition of “ecocide,” and an expert panel of international and environmental lawyers plans to deliver a draft in early 2021 that would make ecocide a crime on par with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

Jojo Mehta, chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation, told the Guardian that “it would have to involve mass, systematic, or widespread destruction” of the world’s ecosystems.

“We are probably talking about Amazon deforestation on a huge scale, deep sea bottom trawling, or oil spills,” she said. 

One of the panel members is Pablo Fajardo, the Goldman prize-winning Ecuadorian lawyer who challenged Chevron for polluting the Amazon rainforest. 

As it is now, he explained, a “great legal vacuum exists.” That results in “crimes committed against nature, against life, going unpunished.”

Assembled by the Stop Ecocide Foundation at the request of several Swedish parliamentarians, the drafting panel is co-chaired by Philippe Sands QC, a professor at University College London, and Justice Florence Mumba, a former judge at the ICC.

Written by

Howard Manly

Howard is a veteran journalist that has spent most of his award winning print and television career focused on the intersection of race, politics, and society. He has written for numerous publications, including Newsweek, the Boston Globe, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and was executive editor of the Bay State Banner, one of the leading black newspapers in America. He is a senior fellow at the Charles Hamilton Houston Institute for Race and Justice at Harvard Law School.