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‘Ecocide’ proposal aiming to make environmental destruction an international crime

‘Ecocide’ proposal aiming to make environmental destruction an international crime

By Anthony Funnell for Future Tense– 13 Feb 21,  A group of leading international law experts has defined a new super-crime.They’re calling it “ecocide”.

They plan to submit a draft of their new law to the governing body of the International Criminal Court, in the hope that the ICC will adopt it for future prosecutions.

If successful, ecocide will become the court’s fifth jurisdictional responsibility, alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.

The group behind the proposal, Stop Ecocide, argues that climate change knows no borders and the destruction of local ecosystems can have huge global consequences.

“In this day and age, it’s no longer possible to say that one is destroying large swathes of nature without realising what one is doing,” Stop Ecocide’s Jojo Mehta says.

She, and the expert panel she’s assembled, want governments, companies and individuals to be brought to account for the environmental destruction they knowingly allow.

And that sense of knowing is important, she says, because most destruction occurs not by accident, but in support of commercial gains.

A growing momentum

Prominent environmental activist Greta Thunberg is onboard, as is the French President, Emmanuel Macron, who’s raised the possibility of incorporating the concept of ecocide into domestic French law.

Though not an official member of the Stop Ecocide movement, he’s also leant his weight to the idea of charging the ICC with oversight of international prosecutions.

President Macron’s involvement began in 2019, when large swathes of the Amazon caught fire under suspicious circumstances. Macron personally accused the Brazilian government of not doing enough to protect the forests from destruction.

Brazil’s populist leader, Jair Bolsonaro — a self-proclaimed climate change denier — initially ridiculed the idea of an ecological emergency and refused to accept international assistance.

“This is an issue that concerns the entire world,” President Macron responded.

“We have a real ecocide that is developing everywhere in the Amazon, not only in Brazil.”

Pope Francis has also spoken of what he calls the “sins of ecology”, explicitly describing his understanding of ecocide as:

“The massive contamination of air, land and water resources, the large-scale destruction of flora and fauna, and any action capable of producing an ecological disaster or destroying an ecosystem.”

The pros and cons

Queens University Law lecturer, Rachel Killean, says the concept of ecocide dates back to the Vietnam War and debates over the American military’s use of the Agent Orange defoliant.

It also briefly gained attention during early discussions on the role and function of the International Criminal Court.

So, Dr Killean says, it makes historical sense to adapt the ICC’s brief, rather than establish a new environmental court.

She says International Law experts such as University College London’s Philippe Sands, former ICC judges and climate change experts are talking about it as “something that is possible and tangible.”

Ms Mehta says the ICC is the only global mechanism that directly accesses the criminal justice systems in all of its member states.

“So, effectively if you make something a crime there, any member state that ratifies that crime must then include it in their own domestic legislation within a year.”

This means it’s likely the most efficient way to make a rule that stays similar across international borders.

“That’s very important with ecosystem destruction because the biggest perpetrators are big transnational companies which operate in many jurisdictions,” Ms Mehta says.

But, Dr Killean warns, despite renewed interest in the ecocide concept there are big hurdles to overcome, the first being sufficient political will…………..

February 13, 2021 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, environment

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