The ‘Ecocide’ movement drives a new international crime: the destruction of the environment


If a nation agrees to submit the ecocide proposal to the International Criminal Court for consideration, that is when even harder work will begin. Ratification is a multi-step process that would require the support of two-thirds or seven-eighths of the court members, depending on the type of amendment introduced. (Vanuatu still supports the campaign, but Covid-19 and the country’s “limited resources for international diplomacy” have put its defense of ecocide on hold, said Dreli Solomon, spokesperson for the Vanuatu embassy in Brussels.)

While no country has committed to formally proposing that the court adopt ecocide, the campaign is gaining traction, fueled by the youth-led climate movement and radical new groups like Extinction Rebellion.

In December, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès called on the member states of the International Criminal Court to examine the possibility of adopting ecocide as a crime. A member of the Belgian Parliament has also proposed a bill to criminalize ecocide. And French lawmakers are working on legislation to make ecocide a crime punishable by fines and imprisonment, although Stop Ecocide criticized the bill as “weak.”

At least 10 countries already have national ecocide laws, including Vietnam, which enacted the law in 1990.

Separately, French lawyers filed a request in January on behalf of Amazonian indigenous groups requesting the International Criminal Court to investigate Bolsonaro of Brazil for crimes against humanity.

The appeal alleges that deforestation encouraged by the Bolsonaro government and other policies has forced indigenous people from their homes and even led to killings in the region.

While the request is based on subpoenas for crimes that the court already addresses, the attorneys who filed it have said the case is also an example of ecocide.

The Brazilian Embassy in Washington said in a statement that “the Bolsonaro administration is taking concrete actions to improve the lives of indigenous peoples and ensure the future of the Amazon.”

The embassy said that more than 70 percent of the eligible indigenous population has received initial Covid-19 vaccinations and that deforestation rates in the Amazon were 21 percent lower from August to January, compared to the same period in the past. last year.

Badenoch said that while the obstacles to adopting a new international crime are high, they are not insurmountable.

“These things are time consuming and complex,” he said. “But they can be done.”

Into the mainstream

While the campaign for an ecocide law could take years, if successful, advocates say the effort could pay off much sooner: The ecocide campaign has brought the concept to public discussion.

Mehta doesn’t expect the campaign to ignite in the United States, but after four years of President Donald Trump, she is encouraged by the arrival of John Kerry, Biden’s special climate envoy. “We do not expect the United States to join the ICC anytime soon, but that said, the conversation about ecocide itself, we don’t see any reason why it can’t start happening in the United States,” he said.

The State Department issued a statement saying that the United States “engages regularly with other countries” on “the importance of preventing environmental destruction during armed conflict,” but added: “We do not comment on the details of our communications. with foreign governments. “

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