A growing number of countries are considering introducing laws to make ecocide a crime. Mexico is the latest country where politicians are seeking to deter environmental damage – and to get justice for its victims – by criminalising it. Karina Marlen Barrón Perales, congresswoman for Nuevo León, has submitted a bill to the Mexican congress introducing a new crime of “ecocide”. While damaging the environment is already a civil offence in most countries, recognition of ecocide elevates the most egregious cases to a crime – with accompanying penalties.
“This is historical! The European Parliament unanimously supports my proposal to enshrine ecocide in European law,” said French MEP Marie Toussaint, who is leading the EU’s environmental crime directive for the Greens in the European Parliament. According to the French MEP, “the issue of ecocide has resurfaced” in recent years since the Erika oil tanker sank off the Brittany coast in 1999, bringing the issue to the EU’s attention. “The litigation cases that we have taken, for the climate or for the rights of nature, have contributed to reviving the urgency of dealing with attacks on living beings in and through the law,” she said.
A group of 10 Extinction Rebellion climate activists on Monday glued themselves to the entrance doors of the European Commission's Berlaymont building in Brussels. Around 25 activists in total, coming from Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands and Italy among others, were present to call on the EU to do more against environmental damage and to criminalize ecocide — the deliberate and systematic destruction of ecosystems. "We want [EU countries] to criminalize ecocide and the Commission could start doing that," said Amelie, a member of Extinction Rebellion Berlin, while her hand was glued to the Commission's building. "We don't have time to wait because biodiversity loss is going on and on ... we need to start acting."
As far back as 2005, the United Nations had estimated that Iraq was already littered with several thousand contaminated sites. Five years later, an investigation by The Times, a London-based newspaper, suggested that the U.S. military had generated some 11 million pounds of toxic waste and abandoned it in Iraq. Today, the country remains awash in hazardous materials, such as depleted uranium and dioxin, which have polluted the soil and water. And extractive industries like the KAR oil refinery often operate with minimal transparency. On top of all of this, Iraq is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, which has already contributed to grinding water shortages and prolonged drought. In short, Iraq presents a uniquely dystopian tableau—one where human activity contaminates virtually every ecosystem, and where terms like “ecocide” have special currency.
The British Lawyer And Author Has Held Nazis And Presidents Accountable For Crossing The Moral Red Line. Now, He Argues, The Time Has Come To Pursue Those Who Commit Crimes Against The Environment. His lectures are part of a global campaign, led by Stop Ecocide International, to make acts of mass environmental destruction a crime within the purview of the International Criminal Court, which has a mandate to investigate and prosecute individuals who otherwise would evade accountability after committing the most serious crimes of concern to humanity at large.
The campaign to make ecocide an international crime took center stage in the Hague on Tuesday as Bangladesh, Samoa and Vanuatu advocated criminalizing environmental destruction during a virtual forum at the annual meeting of the International Criminal Court’s 123 member nations. The forum, attended by more than 1,300 individual participants, represented a collective cry for justice from three of the world’s most climate vulnerable countries. It came less than a month after they and other developing nations pressed their claims at the United Nations climate talks in Glasgow for greater resiliency and adaptation funding from the industrialized world, but came away largely unsatisfied.
In 1948, after Nazi Germany exterminated millions of Jews and other minorities during World War II, the United Nations adopted a convention establishing a new crime so heinous it demanded collective action. Genocide, the nations declared, was “condemned by the civilized world” and justified intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. Now, a small but growing number of world leaders including Pope Francis and French President Emmanuel Macron have begun citing an offense they say poses a similar threat to humanity and remains beyond the reach of international criminal law: ecocide, or widespread destruction of the environment. The pope describes ecocide as “the massive contamination of air, land and water,” or “any action capable of producing an ecological disaster,” and has proposed making it a sin for Roman Catholics.