Top lawyers drafting proposal to amend international law

Panel of top international lawyers now drafting “Ecocide” definition

75 years after Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide coined at Nuremberg

International lawyers Philippe Sands QC and Dior Fall Sow have co-chaired an expert drafting panel on the legal definition of “ecocide” as a potential international crime that could sit alongside War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.  Launched with preparatory work in November 2020, the panel has been convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation at the request of interested parliamentarians from governing parties in Sweden. Their proposed definition was presented on June 22, 2021 and has been carefully crafted to reflect legal precedent in the Rome Statute and other international and environmental law.

The concept of criminalising mass damage and destruction of ecosystems or “ecocide” at a global level has been steadily gaining traction in recent months since small island states Vanuatu and the Maldives called for “serious consideration” of it at the International Criminal Court’s annual assembly of States Parties in December 2019. President Macron of France has actively promised to champion the idea and Belgium has raised the issue directly at the ICC in its 2020 official statement.  Now an impressive list of top international and environmental lawyers are tackling how best to define it.

The timing of the panel launch in November 2020 was powerful, marking 75 years since the opening of the Nuremberg trials of high-ranking Nazi officers in 1945.   Philippe Sands QC, co-chairing the Ecocide drafting panel, was among the speakers at a ceremonial event held in Nuremberg’s historic Courtroom 600 where the trials took place.  Sands’ award-winning book ‘East West Street’ documents the origins of – and the lawyers behind – the terms Crimes Against Humanity and Genocide, first used in that very courtroom. Sands is joined on the drafting panel by a heavyweight list of judges and lawyers, and the panel aims to complete its work in June 2021.

Jojo Mehta, Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation commissioning the panel’s work, explains the significance of the project:
“There have been working definitions of ‘ecocide’ over the years and the general concept – of mass damage and destruction of ecosystems – is reasonably well understood. However when parliamentarians from a number of countries, from European states to Pacific islands, will be considering this definition in the light of possible proposal at the ICC, the text that emerges over the coming months must be both clear and legally robust. It is vital that the drafting panel has in-depth relevant legal expertise as well as a breadth of geographical perspective.”

She is thrilled with the line-up of the panel:  “We couldn’t be happier with the calibre of expert this project has attracted.  It demonstrates a recognition in the legal world that Ecocide can, and now perhaps should, be considered alongside Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity as one of the ‘most serious crimes of concern to humanity as a whole’.  It’s an honour to be working with these judges and lawyers, and an extraordinary moment to be launching the project as the first international trials are remembered at Nuremberg.”

Share this post

Other articles

Left to right: Pella Thiel, Nina Macpherson, Andreas Follér, Ralph Chami.

The talk of the town – ecocide law!

At the Stockholm+50 Conference, ecocide law was the talk of the town. It heads the Youth Task Force Policy Paper, Faith leaders demanded that their stand for ecocide law go on record, the topic kept cropping up in side events, more than 1000 conference participants picked up ecocide law badges.
Professors Ebbesson and Sands at the June 1st event, in agreement on the need for ecocide law.

Swedish Bar Association ecocide law event

The Swedish Bar Association supported by Advokatfirman Vinge, Mannheimer Swartling Advokatbyrå and Ecocide Law Alliance Stiftelse invited a select group of business leaders to a seminar on June 1st, to introduce the proposal to make ecocide an international crime and the reasons why the Swedish business community should be involved.

Protecting humans through ecocide law – New report

Protection of humans and protection of environment are interrelated. The destruction of the environment is a major threat to humans, and current law to protect humans is inadequate, says a new report from The Asser Institute. Criminalizing ecocide will help protect humans.
EVENT May 31

May 31: Ecocide law – the Stockholm legacy

Business and finance sector support for criminalizing ecocide is growing, to protect the Earth and support fair competition. Sign up for our conference to find out more.
EVENT Mar 29

The multiple faces of ecocide as a new crime against humanity: challenges and opportunities for states and companies

This event assesses how and why the recognition of ecocide as an international crime raises several questions for states, citizens but also economic actors, and how this represents an option to protect ecosystems.
Cooling towers of Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station, Ukraine. The largest nuclear power plant in Europe. Image credits Ihor Bondarenko, Shutterstock.

Ukraine to prosecute Russia for ecocide following attack on Europe’s largest nuclear power plant

The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine has launched criminal proceedings over an ecocide following Russia’s seizure of the Chernobyl nuclear powerplant and missile attack and seizure of Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.

Ecocide Law Alliance is an foundation with the purpose to work for the introduction of the crime of ecocide in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Sign up to our newsletter here!

Website designed & developed by Azote