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

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Other articles

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.
EVENT Mar 10

Artificial Intelligence and Ecocide Law, Webinar March 10

Artificial Intelligence is an exponentially growing field of technology, a powerful force for source control and new pathways. But how do we secure that it is used in a benign way for humans and nature?

Make mass damage to the environment a crime everywhere

Debaters: Banning ecocide is like a baby egg a three-in-one solution for the planet
EVENT Dec 14

Webinar: Human Rights, Business and Ecocide 14th Dec

How does international ecocide law support human rights? How can business help? Join us on December 14th, at 17-18h CET, to find out. Read more.
EVENT Dec 07

Ecocide at the International Criminal Court

Tuesday, December 7, at 18.30h CET. A panel discussion on the proposed legal definition of Ecocide as a 5th Rome Statute crime. Official virtual side event at the 20th ASP of the International Criminal Court, The Hague.

Sign up to our mailing list