Legal experts working for the Stop Ecocide Foundation have finalised a legal definition of the new international law, which they hope will be accepted and added to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The new law seeks to criminalise the destruction of the environment, including the oceans, rivers and forests and on land, and will make companies as well as the individuals that head those companies culpable for environmental damage.
The draft law states that any “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts”, will be subject to the criminal offence of ecocide.
That could mean that vessel operators or shippers who fail to adequately protect the environment when moving cargo across the globe could be liable to prosecution, with a number of high-profile cases that might have been prosecuted had the crime of ecocide been in place in the recent past, including the MSC Flaminia, Maersk Honam and X-Press Pearl fires.
Adoption of the draft law by the ICC will have to be agreed with one of the member states moving to adopt the statute as the fifth offence that the court prosecutes. The other four felonies are war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and the crime of aggression.
Stop Ecocide Foundation chair Jojo Mehta told The Loadstar, “Criminal law is quite simple [unlike more complex civil laws]. Criminal offences look at the harm done, the evidence is brought before the court and the court decides how big the harm is.”
Ms Mehta added that the crime of ecocide would cover all environments across the globe and pertain to the “peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of the environment, and the inhabitants do not have to be human”.
The law defining the crime of ecocide was drafted by an international panel of 12 legal experts from across the globe. The Stop Ecocide Foundation and its aims have been gathering support, including most recently from leaders within the EU, with Belgium, Sweden, Spain and other countries interested in seeing the law enacted.
In addition, a number of Pacific Island states are backing the move, which could prove crucial when the ICC comes to debate acceptance of the new law.
Source: The Loadstar