Press Release

PR | Zakia Khattabi gets the crime of ecocide written into the criminal code

On the proposal of the Federal Minister of Justice, Vincent Van Quickenborne, the federal government has just adopted the reform of Book 2 of the Criminal Code. Divided into seven themed chapters, it aims to respond to changing forms of crime, while taking into account the broader context in which these crimes are embedded. Among the new types of crime is that of ecocide, an issue raised by the Federal Minister for the Environment, Zakia Khattabi.

Now recognized in the national criminal codes of 11 countries (France, Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Vietnam), the crime of ecocide refers to all illegal actions resulting in the massive destruction of the environment and nature in the broadest sense.

For several years, many civil society stakeholders have been calling for the recognition of ecocide in international law in a specific convention or in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as a fifth crime against peace and security, alongside the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression. This call was echoed by Zakia Khattabi who, on 20 March, appealed to her fellow European ministers to create an alliance of progressive countries in favor of the inclusion of ecocide in the Rome Statute.

"In addition to the international momentum, for it to have every chance of success, it is important to also show the way for individual countries. I am therefore delighted that Belgium is joining the forerunners in this matter," said the federal environment minister. "I would also like to thank my colleague Vincent Van Quickenborne for the excellent cooperation in this regard"; she added.

The crime of ecocide will be defined as the intentional perpetration of an illegal act that causes serious, widespread and long-term damage to the environment while knowing that these acts result in this damage. This crime will be punishable by a level 6 sentence, which is particularly severe as it provides for imprisonment of between 10 and 20 years.