From Chernobyl to the Amazon: Inside the growing movement to criminalize 'ecocide'

When a nation agrees to submit the ecocide proposal to the International Criminal Court for consideration, even harder work will begin. Ratification is a multi-step process that requires assistance from either two thirds or seven eighths of the members of the court, depending on the type of change introduced. (Vanuatu continues to support the campaign, but Covid-19 and the country’s “limited resources for international diplomacy” have put its support for ecocide on hold, said Dreli Solomon, a spokesman for the Vanuatu embassy in Brussels.)

While no country has committed to formally proposing that the court pass an ecocide, the campaign is gaining momentum, fueled by the youth-led climate movement and radical new groups like Extinction Rebellion.

In December, Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès urged the member states of the International Criminal Court to do so consider the possibility To adopt ecocide as a crime. A member of the Belgian parliament has also proposed a bill to criminalize ecocide. And the French legislature is working on laws to turn ecocide into ecocide Offense Punished with fines and imprisonment, although Stop Ecocide criticized the bill as “weak”.

At least 10 countries already have national ecocide laws, including Vietnam, which enacted the law in 1990.

Separately, French lawyers filed a motion on behalf of Amazonian indigenous groups in January asking the International Criminal Court to investigate the Brazilian Bolsonaro for crimes against humanity.

The appeal alleges that deforestation promoted by the Bolsonaro government and other policies has driven indigenous people from their homes and even resulted in killings in the area.

While the request is based on quotes from criminal offenses, the court is already addressing the lawyers who submitted it to have said The case is also an example of ecocide.

The Brazilian embassy in Washington said in a statement that “the Bolsonaro government is taking concrete action to improve the lives of indigenous peoples and secure the future of the Amazon.”

The embassy said that over 70 percent of the eligible indigenous population received initial Covid-19 vaccinations and that deforestation rates in the Amazon from August to January were 21 percent lower than in the same period last year.

Badenoch said that while the hurdles to introducing a new international crime are high, they are not insurmountable.

“These things take a long time and are complex,” he said. “But they can be done.”

Into the mainstream

While the campaign for an ecocide law could take years – if successful at all – proponents say the efforts could bear fruit much sooner: the ecocide campaign brought the concept into public discussion.

Mehta doesn’t expect the campaign to catch fire in the U.S., but after four years of President Donald Trump’s leadership, she’s encouraged by the arrival of John Kerry, Biden’s special envoy on climate. “We don’t expect the US to join the ICC anytime soon, but the conversation about ecocide itself sees no reason why it cannot start in the US,” she said.

The State Department issued a statement stating that the US “works regularly with other countries” on “the importance of preventing environmental degradation during armed conflict,” but added, “We do not comment on the details of our communications with foreign governments.”

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