Monsanto Court
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Is Monsanto guilty of ecocide?

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A symbolic tribunal against Monsanto was held in The Hague (Netherlands) from 14 to 16 October 2016. Objectives: to address the legal responsibility of corporations and states for global environmental degradation under existing international law; and to convince the need to introduce the concept of the crime of ecocide into international law.
 
L’agriculture has been profoundly changed in less than a century. Food and peasant agriculture still exist, but the latter is threatened by industrial agriculture. This agriculture, disconnected from local realities and highly dependent on chemical inputs, has had many consequences: confiscation of the right of peasants to reuse their seeds and marginalization of millions of them, increasing concentration of the seed market, growing reduction of natural and agricultural biodiversity at the basis of food, depletion of soil and water resources, increasing pollution of the global environment due to the agrochemicals that these new seeds require. These consequences seriously damage the integrity of the ecosystems on which human populations depend. In the end, the agrochemical and seed multinationals have acquired considerable power which has given them a growing role in defining national or international regulations, a deleterious influence on scientific research and general impunity.

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Recognizing the crime of ecocide

In 1966, following the use of Agent Orange in Vietnam, the United Nations began discussions on the introduction of the crime of ecocide. It was then a question of reforming international law. However, the four crimes retained in 1998 in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) - crime against humanity, crime of genocide, war crime, and crime of aggression - are no longer sufficient to qualify what is happening in terms of the destruction of ecosystems.
 
According to End Ecocide on Earth, a citizen movement that has become global, the crime of ecocide is "widespread damage or destruction that would seriously alter global commons or ecological systems" on which all living things and humanity in particular depend. It is indeed necessary to move away from an anthropocentric vision of law to reaffirm humankind in its condition of interdependence with both "common" natural spaces such as the oceans, the atmosphere, the poles, for example, and the "ecological systems" that provide clean water and healthy air, as well as food and habitat for everyone. It is therefore a completely different place that is assigned to man here, he becomes part of a whole, no longer the "owner", with "rights" over that whole.
 
In concrete terms, ecosystems, on which we all depend, are being destroyed by industrial technologies that do not respect life, leading to the mortgaging of the living conditions of present and future generations. Natural persons, but also legal entities, should therefore be able to be prosecuted for ecocides. Ecocide is a separate crime of strict liability, usually without fault: i.e. liability linked to the consequences of the act (based on established knowledge of these consequences), which therefore does not require proof of an intention to harm on the part of the perpetrators. In order to protect present and future generations, it is necessary that the long-term effects of the destruction of the Earth's ecosystem be recognized and that this ecosystem be protected regardless of any consideration of its immediate effects on civilian populations. To this end, the intrinsic value of the Earth's components, processes and life cycles must be recognized. These provisions make it possible to introduce and assume all the legal innovations necessary for its application: the recognition of the rights of Nature and the rights of Humanity - thus including future generations - but also the effectiveness of the rights of indigenous peoples.

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An interest greater than that of the States

On such a subject, the International Criminal Court is called upon to rule independently by firmly applying the principle of universal jurisdiction, in accordance with a common higher interest placed above States with possible jurisdiction over any national territory. The jurists of End Ecocide on Earth have drafted a proposal for 17 amendments to the ICC Statute defining very precisely what should constitute ecocide in scientific terms but also how to judge it effectively. They propose that the judge should be able to criminally sanction all types of legal entities, States as well as multinationals, as well as their leaders, in order not to perpetuate the current impunity regimes. By applying the precautionary principle without derogation, the international judge could stop industrial activities responsible for ecocides in progress or likely to provoke them, by means of provisional measures. In cases of proven ecocide, victims should be able to use the principles of "restorative" justice to force the perpetrators to pay moral, physical and/or economic reparations.
 
When it appears to be required and accepted, the judge may use transitional justice measures to find a peaceful resolution to the complaint by encouraging the perpetrators of the crime to tell the truth, acknowledge the victims, apologize and make reparation for their actions through negotiation. In the event of an accusation of ecocide, the truth and gravity of the facts should be determined by the International Criminal Court in the light of current scientific knowledge and recognised by the United Nations. However, in determining the applicable sentence, the judge may, however, have recourse to the intent of the perpetrator, which shall constitute a mitigating or aggravating circumstance. Prison sentences and the dissolution of a company could be pronounced according to the seriousness of the facts.
 
Arnaud Apoteker, coordinator of the Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague and Valérie CabanesHe is a lawyer in International Law specialising in Human Rights, author of "A new Right for the Earth, to put an end to ecocide" (Seuil - 2016).
 
This article was originally published on the specialized siteinf'OGM
 

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