“An INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND HEALTH is the ultimate goal. To achieve this, a revision of the statutes of the International Criminal Court (Art 121, 122 and 123) is possible, by introducing environmental catastrophe as one of the Crimes against Humanity, allowing the prosecution of those responsible who acted with intent. This crime of environmental catastrophe would facilitate an effective international protection of ecosystems, in the spirit of civil law precedents established by the International Court of Justice (the Trail Case, the Corfu Channel Case);
from the new “Charter of Brussels for the creation of European and International Criminal Court of the Environment and Health“, 2014
This time last year I was thinking about putting forward a motion for the 2013 Green Party of Ireland and Northern Ireland annual convention to support a new international law to prohibit ecocide – the destruction of ecosystems by human activity (it was unanimously passed on 13 April 2013 in Galway). Such a law of ecocide would be an important step to hold corporate leaders and potentially even Heads of State legally accountable for ever accelerating rates of environmental destruction that is causing misery to peoples and non-human communities and leading to mounting ecological degradation across the Earth. With my motion I was trying to introduce these new ideas in a small way into Irish political discourse. While it may seem odd to imagine why an artist-forest dweller would be getting involved in new laws it has developed simply from my caring about the forest I live with and its future, and in turn, Ireland’s forests and the future of the natural world in general. Environmental lawyer championing this ecocide law, UK based lawyer Polly Higgins has said that a law against ecocide is fundamentally about ‘extending a legal duty care’ to nature.
In my motion I was presenting ideas mainly from Polly Higgins and the EradicatingEcocide campaign she founded, along with the work of US lawyer Thomas Linzey and the Community Environmental Legal Defence Fund (celdf.org). Polly has been highlighting the urgent necessity of new legal concepts for an international law against ecocide; Thomas Linzey has developed new ‘town hall’ democracy education models to enable communities and municipalities to design their own legal ‘charters for nature’ – so that they can protect their immediate environments (this has led to some US communities being able to prevent fracking companies coming into some areas for instance). I was also becoming aware of some indigenous communities in South America successfully developing “Rights for Mother Nature” in their constitutions and in NZ the first rights for a river system, the Whanganui River, were recognised in 2012. There is now a Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature that include members from CELDF, others like Indian activist Vandana Shiva, the Pachamama Alliance organisation for South America, the Australian Earth Laws Alliance, the Wild Law UK committee, etc. So a number of initiatives around the world are bringing ‘laws for nature’ into the public realm.
Over the last year Polly Higgin’s End Ecocide campaign encouraged thousands of EU citizens to petition for a law against ecocide and I was excited to hear that this initiative among others has been a strong voice in the development of a potentially Earth-changing new legal charter. This new CHARTER of BRUSSELS, from which I have quoted above, was launched at the European Parliament on 30 January 2014. It is a call for firstly a new European, then an International Criminal Court of Environment and Health. You can read, watch a video and sign your name to support the Charter for Brussel here: http://iecc-tpie.org/en In September 2014 it will be handed over to Ban Ki-Moon, the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
I’m also very excited as Polly Higgins is coming to speak in Northern Ireland this week, at Queens University in Belfast on Tues 11 February. This I believe is her first talk here and the details are here if you are in the area.
I wrote an article about my work on bringing this motion to the Irish Green party and how it developed from my artful forest eco action practice here: Eradicating ecocide in Ireland to make sustainability legal (2013)
If Ecocide is a new term for you, here is a short explanatory video of what an ecocide law would mean for Europe
These developments are of interest around the world – here is Darren Bloomfield from Australia briefly talking about its importance for the Australian aboriginal communities