Is this the year Ecocide becomes criminalized?

Have you heard of Ecocide? Suston wrote about it first several years ago, and again last summer. But since then, it has been populating news feeds from across the globe.  Will 2023 be the year Ecocide truly takes off?

As nature itself is not a legal entity in most jurisdictions, it is difficult if not impossible to prosecute such destruction if actual losses to humans or other legal entities cannot be demonstrated. But what if nature was granted legal standing, and people could prosecute on its behalf?

Enter “Ecocide.”

Ecocide refers to the widespread, deliberate, and severe damage or destruction of ecosystems, often as a result of human activities like deforestation, pollution, or industrial practices. It represents the significant harm inflicted on the environment, leading to ecological imbalances, loss of biodiversity, and adverse consequences for both nature and society.

2023 has been a particularly busy year for this emerging concept, whereby it has regularly been used to describe the environmental war crimes of Russian aggression in Ukraine, which has left vast areas of habitat along the front line devastated.

Just last month, lawmakers in Mexico have also proposed “ecocide” legislation in response to the massive environmental destruction caused by a railway project, as did Brazil in January in an effort to hold those responsible for the destruction of the Amazon accountable.

These are just a few of the rapidly growing number of countries considering or already enacting ecocide legislation. In 2021, France became the first European country to enact an ecocide law, and it is already being tested in its first court case. The Netherlands and Belgium are both finalizing their own draft laws.

Looking beyond nation-states, Stop Ecocide International is a global advocacy organization dedicated to establishing ecocide as a crime under international law. Led by legal experts and environmental activists, it campaigns for legal accountability for severe environmental destruction.

In March of this year, The European Parliament formally expressed its endorsement for incorporating ecocide-level offences into the revised European Union Directive concerning the enforcement of environmental protection through criminal legislation.

At the time of writing, however, Ecocide has not been officially recognized as an international crime by the United Nations. Efforts to establish ecocide as the fifth crime against peace within the Rome Statute, the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC), remain ongoing.

Read our article with Stop Ecocide International.


Photo: Stop Ecocide International


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