Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace

Sunday 26 May 2024

Anja Gauger, Mai Pouye Rabatel-Fernel, Louise Kulbicki, Damien Short and Polly Higgins, ‘Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace’, a report for The Ecocide Project, (2012/3)

This report helps ground an understanding of ecocide as a peace-obscuring technique used by colonial and military powers, most recently by Israel in Gaza,[1] and the United States in the Vietnam War.[2] As such, this resource helps foster an understanding of environmental peace, and its interlinkages with international and community peace.

In detailing a history of how the term ‘ecocide’ came to be in global politics and international law, Gauger et al. identify a top-down condemnation of this activity, starting with heads of state and war crime scholars, and culminating in the creation of the United Nations’ Environment Programme (UNEP). Following a 1930s legal definition of ‘genocide’ by Raphael Lemkin, and the 1948 precedent of the UN Convention on Genocide, the authors argue that ecocide qualifies as both physical and cultural genocide, for “[e]cocide is the direct physical destruction of a territory which can in some instances lead to the death of humans and other beings. Ecocide can and often does lead to cultural damage and destruction; and the direct destruction of a territory can lead to cultural genocide”.[3] They highlight that 121[4] countries are legally bound to the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) 1998 Rome Statute, which condemns “long-term and severe damage to the natural environment”.[5] Much like Otto’s paper,[6] campaigners against ecocide call for an acknowledgement of it in both wartime and peacetime, blurring the distinct boundaries of war and peace when it comes to environmental harm.

[1] Eyal Weizman, Shourideh C. Molavi, Lucia Rebolino, Samaneh Moafi, Robert Trafford, Isabella Parlamis and Elizabeth Breiner, ‘No Traces of Life: Israel’s Ecocide in Gaza 2023-2024’, Forensic Architecture, (29th March 2024) <,under%20a%20decades%2Dlong%20siege.> [accessed 23.5.24]

[2]Anja Gauger, et al., ‘Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace’, p.5

[3] Ibid, p.6

[4] As of 2012. There are now 124 countries that have signed the statute.

[5] International Criminal Court, ‘Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court’, (2021), p.6.

[6] Dianne Otto, ‘Rethinking ‘Peace’ in International Law and Politics From a Queer Feminist Perspective’, Feminist Review, Vol. 126, No. 1, (2020)

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