International lawyers are now working together to define the new crime of ecocide. By criminalizing ecosystem destruction, they hope to both punish and deter those who wantonly harm the earth.

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Swedish parliamentarians requested that the Stop Ecocide Foundation launch the project. It’s timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the start of 1945’s Nuremberg war crimes trials. These famous trials punished Nazi leaders. Proponents of the new movement to define and stop ecocide want this environmental crime to be of similar stature to genocide and war crimes. Professor Philippe Sands of University College London and Florence Mumba, formerly a judge with the International Criminal Court (ICC), are chairing the panel coordinating the initiative.

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The Hague-based International Criminal Court has in the past indicated its intention to prioritize crimes resulting in the illegal dispossession of land, destruction of environment and the exploitation of natural resources. “The time is right to harness the power of international criminal law to protect our global environment,” Sands said, as reported by The Guardian. “My hope is that this group will be able to … forge a definition that is practical, effective and sustainable, and that might attract support to allow an amendment to the ICC statute to be made.”

Some small island nations could be the first to start a court battle over ecocide. Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are two countries that requested the crime of ecocide be seriously considered at the ICC’s annual assembly of state parties last December.

The lawyers still need to hash out what qualifies as ecocide and what doesn’t. The definition of the crime would be more far-reaching than chopping down a tree or two. “It would have to involve mass, systematic or widespread destruction,” said Jojo Mehta, chair of the Stop Ecocide Foundation. “We are probably talking about Amazon deforestation on a huge scale, deep sea bottom trawling or oil spills. We want to place it at the same level as atrocities investigated by the ICC.”

Via The Guardian

Image via Gryffyn M.