After six months of deliberation, an international team of lawyers announced a new legal definition of “ecological extinction.” If this definition is adopted, environmental damage will be on par with war crimes-paving the way for the prosecution of world leaders and business leaders Nature’s worst attack.
The panel of experts published the core text of the proposed law on Tuesday, outlining ecological extinction as “illegal or wanton acts carried out with the knowledge that these acts are likely to cause serious, extensive or long-term damage to the environment.”
Its authors hope that members of the International Criminal Court (ICC) will support it and hold the polluters accountable to prevent unscrupulous damage to the world’s ecosystems.
“This is a question of the survival of our planet,” said Dior Fall Sow, a UN jurist, former prosecutor, and co-chair of the group.
The draft legislation requires that acts of ecological extinction involve “reckless ignorance” and cause “serious adverse changes, destruction or damage to any element of the environment.”The other part says that the damage would “beyond a limited geographic area, across state boundaries, or [be] The suffering of the entire ecosystem or species or a large number of humans”.
This environmental impact is either “irreversible” or cannot be repaired naturally “within a reasonable time.” Finally, in order for the suspects of ecological extinction to be brought to trial, the proposed law stipulates that crimes can occur anywhere-from the Earth’s biosphere to outer space.
“This is a historic moment,” said Jojo Mehta, chairman of the Stop Ecological Extinction Foundation, who commissioned an international lawyers working group. “This panel of experts came together to directly respond to the growing political demand for real answers to the climate and ecological crisis.”
‘It’s not too late to make up for it’
Issuing the core text of the law is only the first step.
Any of the 123 member states of the ICC can now use it as an amendment to the court’s constitution, the Rome Statute. Once this happens, the annual meeting of the court will vote on whether it can consider enacting the amendment in the future.
If passed, the member states must obtain a two-thirds majority to pass the draft law into the Rome Statute, and then each member state can ratify and enforce the law within its own jurisdiction.
By then, ecological extermination will be the so-called “fifth crime” that can be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court together with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and crimes of aggression.
Mehta hopes this can be achieved within four to five years. “This is a decisive decade for action,” she said.
“It’s never too late. We are nine years away from this decade. There is enough time to act.”
Professor Philip said that in finalizing the definition of the law, 12 well-known lawyers from Bangladesh, Chile, Norway, Samoa, Senegal, and the United States sought to balance “want to go further and be pragmatic” Sands, the team Co-chairman.
Sands, who teaches law at University College London, added: “We want to propose a text that is acceptable to each state, and the initial response of the states we shared with it was very positive.” “We have proposed a definition that we think is feasible, but in the end It will be up to the states to decide. This is a question of political will.”
Currently, companies that cause ecological damage through deforestation, mining, oil drilling, or other industrial-scale enterprises usually only face financial penalties, while exempting CEOs and other powerful decision makers from criminal prosecution.
The Ecological Extinction Movement challenged this, threatening to classify them as war criminals, thereby providing a powerful deterrent.
“[People who commit genocide] As CEOs, they don’t care about their public relations so much,” Mehta said. “Corporate reputation, investor confidence, stock prices, etc. depend to a large extent on reputation. Therefore, the key decision makers of a company seen as juxtaposed with war criminals are not attractive at all. “
Although the passage of the draft law cannot be guaranteed, its release marks an important significance in the struggle to criminalize the most serious ecological crimes and to juxtapose them with atrocities with international status.
The origin of the movement can be traced back to 1970, when an American botanist first used “ecological extinction” to describe the nightmare of the US military’s decision to release powerful defoliants (such as Agent Orange) into the forest during the Vietnam War. The impact of the disease, leading to cancer, birth defects and environmental damage. Since then, prominent figures such as Pope Francis and Greta Tumberg, as well as political leaders in Belgium, Finland, France, and Luxembourg, have called for ecological extinction as an international crime.
The team of experts behind this new draft law was established at the end of 2020, 75 years after the Nuremberg trial used “genocide” and “crimes against humanity” to prosecute Nazi leaders.
Its members hope that its publications will mark a similar breakthrough in justice and accountability, just as humanity is facing the catastrophic consequences of a sharp decline in biodiversity and climate warming.
“In international law, extraordinary things happen occasionally,” Sanz said. “I wonder if this will be such a moment.”