In 2011 a “Mock Trial” was held in the Supreme Court of England and Wales. Two fictional Chief Executive Officers were put on trial for causing ecocide due to their destructive practices in the Athabasca tar sands and found guilty. This demonstrated that a law of Ecocide can work in practice, and garnered international media coverage including The Financial Times, Le Monde, Time magazine, Deutsche Welle, Al Jazeera, and Canada’s CBC. The trial was broadcast worldwide online by Sky News.
It’s official, jury unanimous: the Athabasca Tar Sands found to be a crime.
On the 30th of September 2011, in the UK Supreme Court it took just 50 minutes for the jury to return with two unanimous guilty convictions of ecocide against the CEO’s of the oil companies operating in the Athabasca Tar Sands. They returned a not guilty verdict for the charge of ecocide of the Oil Spill.
It was a tense moment waiting for the jury to return with their verdicts; this was not a guaranteed outcome. The court was packed, as was the hall outside where it was being live streamed online by SKY News. People around the world were watching online and following updates on twitter – 120,000 tweets for #ecocidetrial were recorded by lunchtime.
Chris Parker QC acted for the Defence, Michael Mansfield for the Prosecution. Both were class acts. It was no mean feat to bring into the courtroom for just one day some of the issues that would arise in court for a trial on ecocide.
See pics from the day here, read what some of the papers had to say here: Independent, Deutsche Welle, The Guardian, Financial Times, CNBC. Le Monde and Brazil’s Mercado spread the message and triggered much tweeting elsewhere; The Netherlands Radio covered it and brilliant write-ups include Indymedia, Wild Law UK and Climate Rush.
Here are some reactions from prominent environmentalists to the mock trial:
Vandana Shiva, philosopher and environmental activist:“The Ecocide trial is a very important step in waking us up to the violence which is the foundation of the current economy. We need another model that is non-violent, a model which makes peace with the earth. Ecocide must stop.The ideal of limitless growth is leading to limitless violations of the rights of the Earth and of the rights of nature. This is ecocide. We need to stop the destruction of the very basis of life on Earth and of human survival.”
Jonathon Porritt, former Chair, Sustainable Development Commission: ”Once upon a time people did grievous harm to the environment without fully understanding the consequences of their actions. That defence is no longer available, and that sure knowledge we now have entails equally sure moral obligations. In this context, the idea of establishing the crime of Ecocide is both timely and compelling.”
Nnimmo Bassey, chair of Friends of the Earth international and Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action:”I fully believe in this cause. Making ecocide a recognised law will place a cap on the irresponsible actions of fat cats who hide behind corporate shields to destroy lives and harm the planet.”