Steven Donziger wants to make ‘ecocide’ an international crime

Attorney Steven Donziger, who won a multi-billion dollar judgment against Chevron on behalf of Ecuadorian villagers, says that ecocide must be an international crime.

“Whether it is the Secretary of the US Navy or the CEO of Chevron, persons who destroy our ecosystems and kill life must be held criminally responsible,” said Donziger in a speech before the two-day international meeting of Stockholm+50 on Wednesday, June 1, 2022.

Stockholm+50 featured four plenary sessions in which world leaders made calls for bold environmental action to accelerate the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals.

The international meeting was hosted by Sweden and convened by the United Nations General Assembly to commemorate 50 years since the 1972 UN Conference on the Human Environment made the environment a pressing global issue for the first time.

“Ecocide” means unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.

Despite the urgent need to safeguard the natural environment to mitigate the worst impacts of global heating, governments have been remarkably reluctant to sign environmental protections into law.

Donziger is leading a growing movement that is calling to establish ecocide as an international crime within the remit of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Currently the court recognizes only four international crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.

“The oil and gas industry treats our ecosystem like a trash bin,” said Donziger, who won a $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for polluting the Ecuadorian rainforest.

The lawyer was then subjected to unprecedented retaliation and left unable to collect the $9.5 billion judgment against the global oil company despite its unprecedented crimes.

Ten countries—France, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam—have codified ecocide as a crime within their borders during peacetime.

Those countries followed the wording of Article 26 of the International law Commission (ILC) Draft which referred to intentionally causing “widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment” within the context of war – bearing in mind that Article 26 was removed from the final draft submitted to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1996.

On June 22, 2021, the Stop Ecocide Foundation submitted a formal definition for ecocide to the International Criminal Court to create a global legal precedent against which relevant cases of ecological destruction can be judged.

Patrick Hossay, a Political Science professor at Stockton University, has argued that the human species is committing ecocide, based on industrial civilization’s effects on the global environment.

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