After a unanimous vote in the Legal Affairs Committee last week, the European Parliament on Wednesday (29 March) adopted its position on protecting the environment through criminal law, including a definition of ecocide backed by tougher penalties.
“This is historic! The European Parliament unanimously supports my proposal to enshrine ecocide in European law,” he said. French MEP Marie Toussaint, who leads the European Union’s directives on environmental crimes for the Green Party in the European Parliament.
According to the French MEP, “the issue of ecocide has re-emerged” in recent years since the sinking of the oil tanker Erika off the coast of Brittany in 1999, which brought the issue to the attention of the European Union.
“The lawsuits we have brought, whether on climate or nature rights, have revived the urgency of dealing with attacks on living things in and through law,” she said.
“The member states of the European Union represent 40% of the states parties to the International Criminal Court; Toussaint explained that registering ecocide in their local laws could have an upward effect on condemning this crime at the global level.
To tackle environmental crimes, the European Commission put forward a proposal in December 2021 to update existing directive and provide a more harmonized framework for member states to deter and punish offenders.
However, the Commission’s original proposal “only addressed the crime of ecocide by mentioning it briefly in the reasoning, but neglected to include anything in the operational part,” said Frederik Haven of the European Environment Bureau (EEB), an expert on environment field. Green pressure group
On the other hand, in the Parliament text, the legal definition of ecocide has been included in the list of crimes with clearly defined terms.
If this level of ambition is maintained in the Parliament’s text during negotiations with EU countries and the Commission, all member states will have to recognize ecocide in their national laws.
According to the Parliament draft, “Member states should ensure that any conduct that causes grave, widespread, long-term or irreparable harm is treated as an offense of particular gravity and punished as such in accordance with the legal systems of member states.”
Adding the crime of ecocide to EU law would also be supported by penalties – ranging from fines to imprisonment – for companies and individuals guilty of crimes against the environment.
Activists calling for the inclusion of ecocide in European Union law
“The inclusion of the definition of ecocide in the list of crimes contained in the Environmental Crimes Directive is indeed a milestone,” said Haven of the European Energy Bank.
“If it is included in the final legislation, it will be an important step forward towards recognizing ecocide in Europe,” he added, giving a strong signal to the international community and a new tool in the arsenal of prosecutors across Europe.
The final step in adopting the directive will follow in the coming months during the so-called tripartite talks between the European Parliament, the Commission and the EU’s 27 member states in the Council of the European Union.
Activists welcomed the addition of ecocide to the European Union’s list of punishable crimes, saying it would increase the number of countries with an ecocide law, and pave the way for an amendment to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court to include ecocide in the list of international crimes. .
Their aim is to have it recognized as a fifth crime, in addition to the four existing crimes – crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, and crimes of aggression – under the Court’s jurisdiction.
For environmental groups, this means that politicians and corporations could be considered ecocide liable to criminal prosecution Under international law l environmental disasters Caused, for example, by bottom trawling, oil spills, plastic pollution or deep-sea mining.
“Recognition of ecocide in the EU will have several positive effects, not only creating accountability at the decision-making level but also laying a foundation piece to support, enhance and improve adherence to existing laws, regulations and due diligence requirements,” Jojo emphasized. Mehta, director of the NGO Stop Ecocide International.
(Editing by Frederic Simon/Natalie Weatherald)