Ecocide to become a Punishable Crime

environmental destruction could become an ecocidal crime punishable by law

Over the past fifty years we have seen a weakening of environmental laws as corporations lobby politicians to their favourable interests, consequently, National Parks and previously protected Wildernesses have been opened up for Mining, Gas and Oil Exploitation. Consequently, many of our last great wilderneses are more threatened and species extinction has increased as natural habitats have been destroyed for corporate interests. Polly Higgins was the original founder and proponent of drafting Ecocide legislations to be put in place.

Higgins, was British barrister whom had dedicated her life’s work to making Ecocide an acknowledgeable international crime, like genocide. She submitted a draft of the law in 2010. She brought public attention to the Rome Statute, a statute of countries that make up an International Criminal Court with the aim for a peace treaty against genocide, human rights violations and ecocide was on the list until it was removed in 1996. She sold her house and gave up a high-paying job so she could dedicate herself to attempting to create a law that would make corporate executives and government ministers criminally liable for the damage they do to ecosystems. She wrote a book called ”Eradicating Ecocide”,  she lobbied the United Nations law commission, and organised mock tribunals and established a trust fund for “Earth protectors”. However, sadly Higgins died of Cancer in 2019. 

Higgins has left behind this legacy to grow. Thanks to the work of Polly Higgins and her campaign to add Ecocide back to the Rome Statute to make it the 5th crime against peace.

Now, Swedish parliamentarians are acknowledging that the Stop Ecocide Foundation launch this project. This has been timed to coincide with the 75th anniversary of the start of 1945’s Nuremberg war crimes trials. These famous trials punished Nazi leaders for genocide.

International Environmental lawyers are currently drafting Ecocidal Crimes to become legally enforceable – criminalising destruction of the world’s ecosystems, bringing growing support from Latin American countries where rain forests have been cut down for oil and mining and European countries and island nations at risk from rising sea levels.

The new Ecocide panel coordinating the initiative is chaired by Prof Philippe Sands QC, of University College London, and Florence Mumba, a former judge at the international criminal court (ICC).

Proponents of the new movement want this environmental crime to be of similar stature to genocide and war crimes.

“The time is right to harness the power of international criminal law to protect our global environment,” Sands said, as reported by The Guardian. “My hope is that this group will be able to … forge a definition that is practical, effective and sustainable, and that might attract support to allow an amendment to the ICC statute to be made.”

Some small island nations could be the first to start a court battle over ecocide. Vanuatu in the Pacific Ocean and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are two countries that requested the crime of ecocide be seriously considered at the ICC’s annual assembly of state parties last December.

Never has it been more important to protect the environment, and never has doing that been more deadly.  Competition for access to natural resources is intensifying against a backdrop of extreme global inequality, while humanity has already crossed several vital planetary environmental boundaries.  At the same time, more and more ordinary people are finding themselves on the frontline of the battle to defend their environment from corporate or state abuse, and from unsustainable exploitation.  This rapidly worsening crisis appears to be hidden in plain sight.  A lack of systematic monitoring or awareness of the growing threat to environmental and land activists is enabling killings and a wide range of other abuses, while national governments and judicial systems are regularly failing to protect their citizens from harm.’’ – Global Witness-Deadly Environment Report


The Silent Ecocide, the environmental crisis is a crisis of human consciousness

by Carlita Shaw



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