Commissioned by the Stop Ecocide Foundation, an expert drafting panel of 12 highly renowned international criminal and environmental lawyers from around the world has just concluded six months of deliberations. The result: a legal definition of “ecocide” as a potential 5th international crime, to sit alongside genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.
The Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide, chaired by barrister and author Philippe Sands QC (UK) together with UN jurist and former prosecutor Dior Fall Sow (Senegal), was convened in late 2020 at a powerfully symbolic moment, 75 years after the terms “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” were first used at Nuremberg. The project emerged in response to a request from parliamentarians in the governing parties of Sweden.
The proposed definition will now be made available for states to consider, and will henceforth be visible on the newly launched Ecocide Law website, an academic and legal resource hub co-managed by the Stop Ecocide Foundation and the Promise Institute for Human Rights at UCLA School of Law.
Jojo Mehta, Chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation and convenor of the panel, said: “This is an historic moment. This expert panel came together in direct response to a growing political appetite for real answers to the climate and ecological crisis. The moment is right – the world is waking up to the danger we are facing if we continue along our current trajectory.”
The drafting work, she explained, “was high-level, collaborative and informed by many experts as well as a public consultation comprising hundreds of legal, economic, political, youth, faith and indigenous perspectives. The resulting definition is well pitched between what needs to be done concretely to protect ecosystems and what will be acceptable to states. It’s concise, it’s based on strong legal precedents and it will mesh well with existing laws. Governments will take it seriously, and it offers a workable legal tool corresponding to a real and pressing need in the world.”
Rebecka Le Moine, Member of Swedish Parliament, who initially approached the Stop Ecocide Foundation with a request for a definition of ecocide, said:
“I welcome this definition, as it makes the term ecocide more concrete and clear, it also makes it a lot easier for me as a politician and a lawmaker to find support for criminalization of it.”