Belgium: the offense of ecocide should soon be included in the Criminal Code

Chlordecone in the West Indies, oil spills in Peru or even deforestation in Brazil… We can no longer count the number of environmental attacks that fill the news. To prevent its spread, Belgium will soon include the offense of ecocide in its criminal code. A first in Europe. But that’s not all, the deputies also want this crime against the environment to be recognized in international law.

“The planet can also fall victim to serious crimes of destruction”, confirmed in the microphone of Arte last December, the Belgian deputy Samuel Cogolati. The latter is a member of the Ecolo party and is the author of a groundbreaking resolution aiming to include the crime of ecocide (deliberate and complete destruction of an ecosystem) in the Belgian Criminal Code. It was approved by the Belgian Parliament on December 2, 2021, as reported West France.

In addition to including these serious attacks on the environment in Belgian national legislation, this resolution also aims to amend the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court. Objective: to add ecocide to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This is the first time a Western country has gone so far as to have this crime recognized on an international level. As Novethic reminds us, the concept of ecocide has been debated within the International Law Commission since 1947, but it is still not recognized as such.

France has not yet taken a position

If the resolution of the Belgian parliament is a pioneer, the international victory is far from achieved. Indeed, two-thirds of the States Parties to the International Criminal Court are required to approve the amendment. Austria, Finland and Spain have discreetly expressed their openness, as have the Maldives and Vanuatu, which are directly affected by climate change. West France. For its part, France has not yet spoken.

As a reminder, the introduction of a crime of ecocide into the French Penal Code was one of the key proposals of the Citizens’ Climate Convention. The government’s final text favored a general “crime” of pollution, ie a proposal “infinitely less ambitious”had then denounced Cyril Dion in a tweet.

Belgium, for its part, proposes to create a new international treaty on ecocide, with the most proactive countries. A different battle is also going on in the European Parliament. A campaign has been launched to include ecocide in the Environmental Offenses Directive, which is currently under review, led notably by ecologist MEP Marie Toussaint and supported by more than 50 NGOs. Parliament has already endorsed this position.

The vote of the Belgian resolution marks another step towards the recognition of the crime of ecocide at international level.

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