Ecocide - Puzzles and Possibilities

Journal of International Criminal Justice, Forthcoming

Queen's University Legal Research Paper Forthcoming

39 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2022

See all articles by Darryl Robinson

Darryl Robinson

Queen's University - Faculty of Law

Date Written: April 4, 2022


Popular interest in a new crime of ‘ecocide’ has recently surged. The proposed crime seeks to more strongly repudiate the most egregious environmental wrongdoing, complementing other efforts to curb ongoing environmental destruction. In June 2021, an international panel proposed a definition of ecocide. Initial academic commentaries, many of them critical, reflect entirely understandable first reactions. However, combining international criminal law (ICL) and environmental law raises fascinating new issues that are not initially obvious. These challenges may require a reappraisal of initial reflexes of ICL jurists.

In this article, I survey the main issues in defining ecocide. For example, is a crime of ecocide a worthy idea? Is the best approach to amend the ICC Statute or to start with a smaller group of supportive states? I also introduce the main drafting options and controversies. The hardest puzzle, by far, is how to align ecocide with environmental law. Some seemingly simple solutions would entail rejecting environmental law; I argue that there are principled, normative and strategic reasons why a crime of ecocide should reflect environmental law, not reject it. I also show that every available option for defining ecocide invites plausible concerns. Thus, a conversation about defining ecocide must be a nuanced one about which options are least problematic. I outline possible future directions for exploration; with further deliberation, more elegant criteria may yet be found.

Keywords: ecocide, international criminal law, environmental law, transnational criminal law, environmental crimes, green criminology, expressive function, fault, culpability, causation, harm, endangerment, impact assessment, regulatory defence

JEL Classification: K14, K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Robinson, Darryl, Ecocide - Puzzles and Possibilities (April 4, 2022). Journal of International Criminal Justice, Forthcoming, Queen's University Legal Research Paper Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Darryl Robinson (Contact Author)

Queen's University - Faculty of Law ( email )

Macdonald Hall
Kingston, Ontario K7L 3N6 K7L3N6

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