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Defining Ecocide

Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash.

The proposed definition of a novel international crime of ecocide – unveiled on 22 June by the StopEcocide initiative – has been discussed widely across the international law blogosphere and beyond. Following the interview with one of the panel‘s co-chairs, Philippe Sands, published on this blog in April, we are pleased to kick off this symposium, which will explore the definition, its main components, and contingent open questions.

According to the proposal of the independent expert panel, the (potential) crime of ecocide, to be included into the legal framework of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, shall read as follows: ‘For the purpose of this Statute, “ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.’

Over the coming days, four contributors will critically engage with this proposed definition and address some of the concerns that have been voiced since its presentation.

Anastacia Greene analyses in the first contribution of our symposium the mens rea of the proposed crime of ecocide and how it fits into the Rome Statute’s traditional mens rea framework.

Natascha Kersting sheds light on the symbolism underlying the definition and its inherent ambiguity between anthropocentrism and ecocentrism. She also addresses the legal principles of legality and specificity.

Fin-Jasper Langmack ponders the possibility of (future) compensations for having committed ecocide, zooming in on the already existing legal framework applicable under Article 75 Rome Statute and asking who might be entitled to claim compensations

Jelena Aparac examines whether corporate directors could be prosecuted for ecocide under the proposed definition and whether this is likely to happen in practice. She claims that, by setting aside the issue of corporate responsibility as such, the drafting panel has provided only a partial response to environmental destruction.

We conclude the symposium with a video-interview with Christina Voigt, one of the Expert Panel‘s members. She shares her perspective on the drafting process and addresses the criticism voiced in this symposium and on other blogs following the definition‘s publication.

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