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8.1 For an international recognition of the crime of ecocide

  • Proposed by: Europe Écologie Les Verts (EELV) and Les Verts Fraternels Mauritius
  • Country: France & Mauritius

Resolution Title:

For an international recognition of the crime of ecocide

Operative Text:

The Global Greens:

1. Recognize and define the crime of ecocide as a serious and lasting harm to natural planetary communities and their biogeochemical cycles and / or to an ecological system vital to the Earth's ecosystem as necessary to maintain the current conditions of life.

2. On the short run, we support the demand by various movements of civil society to recognize the crime of ecocide as a crime that can be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court (ICC). For this, serious cases of environmental destruction, the health damage they cause, and the threat to the safety of the planet they represent - must be recognized as crimes. Recognizing the crime of ecocide in peacetime would make it possible to try the perpetrators of the most serious environmental crimes and thus engage the responsibility of the leaders of transnational corporations, heads of state or directors of partner organizations.

3. On the longer run (for the next Global Greens Congress), we commit to work on a unification of all international environmental treaties (on oceans, coasts, forests, mountains, etc.) in a one single text under the normative framework of “planetary boundaries”. This text will be proposed to the United Nations as a basis for the creation of an International Environmental Court (IEC) in charge of the most serious violations of international environmental law. So as to avoid ICC drawbacks including lack of cooperation by various states, the IEC will depend directly on the UN and thus will be universal; its legal orders will be mandatory and will prevail on national jurisdictions. The IEC and its founding statute will be the core of a binding international environmental law architecture designed to punish and most of all to prevent further destruction of nature.

Background Text:

This serves as a reference material and will not be voted on as part of the Resolution

1. In the 1990’s, the international community had to face the resurgence of tremendous violations of the humans rights universally recognized in 1948: massive executions of prisoners, forced displacements, massacres on ethnic basis and genocide were committed in both former-Yugoslavia and Rwanda. The United Nations first responded by creating two International Criminal Tribunals, one for each conflict. A few years later, in 1998, the founding Statute of a permanent International Criminal Court (ICC) was established in Rome, by more than one hundred countries that put together all the existing humanitarian international treaties in one single text and signed it. The ICC, able to take action against any war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocides committed at any time in any of its State parties, became functional in July 2002.

2. These international criminal jurisdictions are based on the same moral principle: war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocides – in short, serious violations of human rights – affect human dignity so harshly that if they are committed somewhere on a single human being, all humanity is concerned. That’s why international law is at stake on these matters and prevails on national jurisdictions. That’s also why some national justices, standing by their “universal jurisdiction” on international humanitarian law, can launch prosecutions on such crimes even when they occured in other countries. This whole international criminal justice architecture is designed to fight against impunity and, thus, to prevent serious crimes to happen again.

3. In 2017, the global environmental situation has reached a critical point. In December 2015, 195 States gathered in Paris COP21 to agree that global warming must be limited to 1,5°C, what means dramatic reductions of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide as soon as possible: if not, the UN High Commission for Refugees states that up to 250 million people may be displaced due to climate change by 2050. Meanwhile, with species extinctions reaching more than 1 ‰ each year, there is growing international scientific concern that a sixth mass extinction of plants and animals has begun… According to environmental scientists Johan Rockström (Stockholm Resilience Centre) and Will Steffen (Australian National University), these are two among four “planetary boundaries” that have already been exceeded. These “planetary boundaries” involve nine thresholds on core environmental issues (greenhouse gas amount in atmosphere, biodiversity, but also ocean acidification, land use for crop, consumption of freshwater…) beyond which human existence would be threatened. For these scientists, four of them had been crossed in January 2015 because of human activity since the industrial era.

4. The causes of this environmental disaster are well-known: in a world fast-growing economy, industries take more and more natural resources, and they dump more and more waste while most States fail to implement national environmental laws. Locally, industrial environmental degradation often leads to the death of an ecosystem in which life, vegetal, animal or human, can no longer develop. Globally, the increase of greenhouse gas emission or loss of biodiversity somewhere has dramatic impact on life elsewhere. The reality of atmospheric pollution, the global consequences of local environmental damages, invite to think that if one single community is affected the whole humanity is concerned. For this reason, time may have come to reshape international environmental law on the model of international humanitarian law.

5. Throughout the world, initiatives that present systemic solutions to the degradation of the natural environment through an adaptation of public and criminal international law are multiplying. Whatever the approaches (Land Law, Rights of Nature, Rights of Future Generations, Human Right to a Healthy Environment, Crime of Ecocide), all are part of an innovative socio-eco-systemic perspective according to which Human beings are an integral part of nature. This emergence and convergence of initiatives is the expression of a historical movement in favor of adapting international standards in the face of major environmental degradation.

6. However, taking into account the global climate situation requires a moral and legal responsibility that goes beyond the mere "declaration of intentions". Pollution and destruction of our environment, as well as depletion of natural resources, are rapidly progressing and we are facing a great international legal vacuum to stop them: hundreds of international treaties on various parts of the environment exist, but they are built on a fragmented vision of nature and they lack binding legal force. By unifying these treaties under the “planetary boundaries” logic and by giving them the highest international legal value, it is time to establish a legal landscape that would permit to try the perpetrators of the most serious environmental crimes and most of all to prevent such future crimes so as to safeguard humanity and nature.


Recognising that setting up of the International Court on Environment is time consuming against the urgency of the situation posed by gas emissions, the Greens Congress urges each Green party member to set up in its own country a body with a mandate (i) to enforce strict monitoring of gas emissions as prescribed under COP21, where such monitoring  does not exist or does not function properly and (ii) to campaign for the public awareness of the dangers of pollution looming ahead aimed at compelling  the local authorities to take the appropriate sanctions  against such gas emissions and polluters.


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