The European parliament has announced its support for the inclusion of the term “ecocide” in the EU’s revised environmental crime directive, following a historic vote in the Legal Affairs Committee.

The Legal Affairs Committee voted unanimously to make the most serious environmental crimes, colloquially known as “ecocide,” punishable under EU law.

JoyNews’ Mahmud Mohammed-Nurudeen, who has been following events, says, during a monthly plenary session, the EU parliament officially declared its support for the inclusion of ecocide-level crimes in the European Union’s revised Directive on protection of the environment through criminal law.

According to Jojo Mehta, Executive Director of Stop Ecocide International, the support is timely and entirely appropriate for the EU parliament to support the inclusion of ecocide-level crimes in the revised directive on environmental protection through criminal law.

“We congratulate the parliament on its approval and believe this step could herald a historic turning point in our relationship with the planet. The EU parliament has today shown leadership, foresight and, indeed, solidarity with the many vulnerable nations and communities suffering the effects of ecocide. We trust that all EU agencies will recognise this text for the gift that it is and welcome it into EU law.”

According to Professor Philippe Sands KC, Co-chair of the Independent Expert Panel for the Legal Definition of Ecocide, the fact that the European parliament is taking the concept of ecocide seriously is very encouraging. According to Professor Sands, the global community is now faced with a new type of threat, similar to genocide and crimes against humanity in 1945: severe and widespread or long-term environmental damage that violates existing legal obligations and corresponds to the emerging concept of ecocide.

“This is a most significant first step, as the EU seeks to play a leadership role in taking the region and the world to a more benign environmental future.”

According to Marie Toussaint, MEP (Greens/EFA), the ecological situation on the planet is beyond critical, a new legal era is required, and the European parliament has demonstrated its understanding of this by committing member states to recognize ecocide.

“Each state must now decide on where they stand. We said that another Europe is possible. Well, here is the proof that the fight of the Greens is paying off. We will do everything to consolidate this victory and make it effective. Ecocide is an essential and revolutionary legal tool for the protection of the environment.”

The proposed text uses language that is extremely close to the international consensus definition of ecocide proposed by the Stop Ecocide Foundation’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) in June 2021.

A specific definition for “gravest crimes” is included, taking into account the IEP draft’s conditions for harm: “severe and either widespread or long-term or irreversible” (with the corresponding definitions of those terms* closely following those used in the IEP draft). The proposal requires member states to ensure that the most serious crimes are appropriately sanctioned in their legal systems.

The term “ecocide” is specifically used in the proposed directive’s recital (preamble), where it is linked to the same conditions of severe and either widespread, long-term, or irreversible damage.

According to Stop Ecocide International, this is the first time that such a definition has appeared in a European legislative text – the European Council and the European Commission must agree on the parliament’s proposed position before “ecocide” can be officially recognized in European law.

Representatives from each of the three institutions will engage in a consultation process known as “trilogue” negotiations in the coming months.

Stop Ecocide International says, recognizing “ecocide” at the European Union level would be globally significant: all EU member states would be required to transpose the creation of this new crime into domestic legislation, and with EU States constituting more than 20% of states parties to the International Criminal Court, it would be a decisive step towards international recognition of the crime of “ecocide.”

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