by Ramindu Perera

The anti-ecocide movement emerged as an initiative to use international criminal law to prohibit large scale destruction of the natural environment. The legal definition of ecocide published by the Independent Expert Panel appointed by Stop Ecocide Foundation (SEF) (2021) is a landmark moment in the ongoing campaign of criminalizing ecocide. This article analyses the strengths and limitations of the SEF ecocide definition from an eco-centrist ecological perspective, on the ground that anthropocentric approaches to environmental protection in armed conflict situations are inadequate. The article identifies the definition as a progressive step forward from an eco-centric viewpoint as it represents several advances compared to article 8 (2) b iv which is the only provision that currently refers to the environment during armed conflict in the Rome Statute framework. Initiating a normative shift through bringing crimes against environment to the center of the Rome Statute regime, introducing a moderate and innovative actus reus criteria that relaxes the cumulative ‘widespread, long-term and severe damage’ requirement of article 8 (2) b iv, offering a dynamic interpretation to the constitutive elements of the actus reus criteria, advancing a flexible mens rea requirement through introducing the dolus eventualis standard and extending environmental protection to non-international conflicts represent progressive advances.

However, linking the crime with a proportionality assessment as a second threshold impedes the effectiveness of the provision since it introduces an anthropocentric dimension that has resulted in diluting the eco-centric foundations of the ecocide conception. Refusing to treat the anthropocentric / eco-centric divide as binary oppositions, the article suggests considering them as two ends of a spectrum.

Thus, it is argued that the proposed definition should be understood as a soft eco-centric scheme — a formula that remains within the ambit of eco-centrism but with an anthropocentric leaning.

Key words – ecocide, Rome Statute, eco-centrism, international criminal law

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