Helping to create an international law that would mean ‘ecocide’ – “mass damage or destruction to ecosystems” – is treated as seriously as genocide.


Ecocide is defined as the “mass damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.”



The Ecocide Trial is being held to raise awareness of the need for an international law on Ecocide, which would be the environmental equivalent of genocide. This law would establish the requirement of heads of states and corporations to take individual and personal responsibility for their actions.

What will this mean in practice? Is it legally possible? Will it have more negative effects than positive? Would the Alberta Tar Sands mining, destruction of the Amazon rainforest, oil spills, the threatened existence of the low-lying Maldive Islands because of rising sea-levels, the Pacific Gyre – the island of garbage twice the size of Texas slowly spinning in the Pacific Ocean be classed as Ecocide? Who would be the individuals prosecuted under this proposed law? Could Banks be culpable as well if they provide funding for activities prosecuted under Ecocide? In reality, what effect would the law have on the environment and businesses and the people who run them?

Some of these issues will be tested in a mock trial at the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom on 30 September 2011.



Ecocide – v – Living Planet:

Participants in the Ecocide TrialParticipants in the Ecocide TrialOn September 30th 2011 a mock trial will take place at the UK’s Supreme Court in London. A judge, jury and barristers will test the crime of Ecocide as if it is already law.

Michael Mansfield QC, the prosecuting barrister, and Nigel Lickley QC, the defence barrister together with supporting legal teams, will lead the case for and against a fictional Mr X, CEO of a major corporation. Before the case is heard, legal argument will be put as to whether Ecocide and the Earth Right to Life should be applied to the charge against Mr X. Mr X will be played by an actor and has been charged with a number of ‘ecocides’ – the ecocide that is tried will be determined on the day. It could be:

  •          Deforestation of the Amazon
  •          Arctic drilling
  •          Fracking for shale gas in Nigeria
  •          Major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico
  •          Bauxite mining of the Niyamgiri mountain
  •          Unconventional tar sands extraction in Canada
  •          Deep sea mining of the Central and Eastern Manus Basin


The trial will examine how the crime of Ecocide protects the Earth Right to Life and will be tried as though the proposed crime of Ecocide has been adopted by the UN.

What will happen is not pre-scripted; it is ultimately for the jury to determine whether the crime of Ecocide is made and whether the Earth Right to Life is breached.

The Trial is open to the public.

People offering their expertise include :

Vandana Shiva, one of the world’s leading environmental activists

Jonathon Porritt, inaugural Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission

Dr Maja Goepel, expert in the collaboration of ecology, globalization and justice 

Maude Barlow, author, environmental activist and national chairperson of The Council of Canadians 

Professor Todd Landman, Director of the Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution at the University of Essex 

Dr Simon Boxall, National Oceanography Centre. Expert in effect of oil in the oceans 

The Lawyers taking part are

Prosecution team:

Michael Mansfield QC, Tooks Chambers 

Junior: Steven Powles, Doughty St 

Defence team:

Nigel Lickley QC, 3 Paper Buildings 

Adam Hiddleston, 3 Paper Buildings 


All lawyers involved are giving their time free.

The Trial will be filmed and streamed live onto the internet. Footage from the trial, the deliberations of the jury, together with interviews with the expert witnesses on both sides, will be edited and made available to the media, government, businesses and social networks and be used as part of information packs for schools, universities and business schools.

Artists Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey are planning to create a video installation from the trial footage, which will be shown in an exhibition in Texas and then tour worldwide. All costs for this are being covered by Heather and Dan. 




Polly Higgins, the British barrister and international environmental lawyer, proposed to the United Nations in April 2010 that a law on Ecocide is classed as an international law alongside Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Crimes of Aggression and War Crimes, as a 5th Crime Against Peace. If Ecocide is accepted as a crime under international law it will have a profound effect on Governments, Heads of State, Corporations and those who run them, and on the ecosystems of the Earth.




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