This afternoon, April 16th, 25 rebels of the group Extinction Rebellion occupied the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. The objective of this action is to get the 122 parties to the Rome Statute to recognise ecocide as an international crime. This action is part of International Rebellion, currently happening in 35 countries and 200 cities around the world.
Currently, the ICC recognises four international crimes: crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes of aggression. The ongoing violence against the ecosystems that sustain all living beings including us has been left unpunished. Extinction Rebellion activist Jonathan Leggett says: “We demand that ecocide is amended as a fifth international crime alongside the other abhorrent crimes dealt with by the court”. What is meant by ecocide is the extensive damage to, destruction of, or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory by human agency to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been, or will be, severely diminished.
In the light of large scale environmental destruction, Polly Higgins, who is the leading advocate for the crime of ecocide, has been pressing for the need to stop the ongoing destruction of our earth. Persons of superior responsibility need to be held individually criminally responsible. We need a legal duty of care for our earth. This is not a new idea. Ecocide was included in every draft of the Rome Statute from 1985 to 1996. However, at the last minute it was vetoed by Britain, France, and The Netherlands. We now ask these countries, as well as all other ratifying countries, to recognise ecocide for the crime that it is. Activist Jonathan Legget makes clear: “This action is not aimed against the ICC. We share their philosophy that those responsible for the worst crimes committed should be held accountable.”
This action is part of international weeks of rebellion by Extinction Rebellion groups around the world, from Accra to Amsterdam. These actions are aimed at governments demanding that they tell the truth about the severity of our situation and act upon this truth. The movement uses non-violent civil disobedience to reach their demands because this method has been proven effective in the past.
This action was organised by Extinction Rebellion NL, who plan to block roads throughout Amsterdam in the coming weeks, as well as to hold a funeral procession for the planet’s future in Rotterdam. Extinction Rebellion UK has also been active and will continue to be in the coming weeks. Throughout the week they are blocking strategic locations in London, including Parliament Square, Oxford Circus, and Waterloo Bridge.