The Crime of Ecocide through Human Rights Approach

The “Universal” Right to a Healthy Environment as a Driving Force Calling for Ecocide Legislation

doi: 10.32566/ah.2024.2.5


The environment is often called the “silent victim of war” – the case is not different in the Russo–Ukrainian armed conflict. Since 2014, nature − home to 35% of European biodiversity and varied natural habitats − has suffered a tremendous loss in Ukraine. The war has been responsible for the emission of 33 m tonnes of CO2 , and postwar reconstruction is estimated to generate even more. Additional environmental concerns include extensive pollution, degradation of natural habitats, and species extinction. Regarding the new data, more than 2 thousand events can be considered ecocide. Ecocide is the destruction of the natural environment by deliberate or negligent human action. Transboundary environmental harm is also a pressing issue, as pollution “travels” by wind, air, and water to other countries. Ecocide is a new yet old concept concerning severe environmental destruction. In the last decade, a debate has emerged concerning legislation, definition and enforcement. Instead of international criminal law, many believe that the solution will be the human rights approach. Meanwhile, the right to a healthy environment, initially not included in “traditional” human rights conventions, is getting more attention worldwide and in Europe. Recently, the European Economic and Social Committee adopted an own-initiative opinion on the right to a healthy environment in the EU in the context of the war. The aim is to criminalise Russia’s actions under European law and ensure environmental protection to safeguard fundamental rights. In the paper, the author would like to focus on the parallel development of the right to a healthy environment and ecocide.


environmental destruction at times of armed conflicts ecocide right to a healthy environment human rights approach international criminal law

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