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Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace

Citation: Gauger, Anja and Rabatel-Fernel, Mai Pouye and Kulbicki, Louise and Short, Damien and Higgins, Polly (2012) Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace. UNSPECIFIED. School of Advanced Study, London. (In Press)

The term ecocide was used as early as 1970, when it was first recorded at the Conference on War and National Responsibility in Washington, where Professor Arthur W. Galston “proposed a new international agreement to ban ‘ecocide’”2. Ecocide as a term had no strict definition at that time: “although not legally defined, its essential meaning is well-understood; it denotes various measures of devastation and destruction which have in common that they aim at damaging or destroying the ecology of geographic areas to the detriment of human life, animal life, and plant life”. What was recognised was that the element of intent did not always apply. “Intent may not only be impossible to establish without admission but, I believe, it is essentially irrelevant.” Richard A. Falk, in his draft (1973) Ecocide Convention, explicitly states at the outset to recognise “that man has consciously and unconsciously inflicted irreparable damage to the environment in times of war and peace”. By the end of the 1970s the term itself seems to have been well understood. So how was it that an international crime whose name was familiar to many who were involved in the drafting of the initial Crimes Against Peace was completely removed without determination? Documents that have only now been examined and pieced together shed a whole new light on a corner of history that would otherwise be buried forever. What is so remarkable is that the collective memory has erased this crime in just 15 years, and yet documents tell a story of engagement by many governments who supported the criminalisation of ecocide in peacetime as well as in wartime. Extensive debate over 40 years, with committees of experts specifically tasked to undertake examination of ecocide and environmental crimes, documented in the paper trail left behind tells us that this was well-considered law; early drafts, which have been referred to in some of the papers that have been uncovered, provide definitive reference to ecocide as a crime which was to stand alongside genocide as a Crimes Against Peace – both during peacetime as well as wartime.

Creators: Gauger, Anja and Rabatel-Fernel, Mai Pouye and Kulbicki, Louise and Short, Damien (0000-0001-5897-2732) and Higgins, Polly and
Subjects: Human Rights & Development Studies
Keywords: environment, ecocide, UN, human rights
Divisions: Human Rights Consortium
Collections: Ecocide Project
  • July 2012 ()


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