UCL Faculty of Laws


Professor Philippe Sands to co-chair panel on the legal definition of ‘ecocide’

18 November 2020

75 years after Crimes against Humanity and Genocide were coined at Nuremberg, Professor Sands will co-chair panel to draft legal definition of ‘ecocide’

Philippe Sands

Professor Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Public Understanding of Law at UCL Laws, will co-chair an expert drafting panel on the legal definition of ‘ecocide’ as a potential international crime that could sit alongside War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity.

Launching with preparatory work this month, and set to draft the definition over the early months of 2021, the panel, also co-chaired by international judge Florence Mumba, has been convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation on the request of interested parliamentarians from governing parties in Sweden.

The concept of criminalising mass damage and destruction of ecosystems or ‘ecocide’ at a global level has been steadily gaining traction in recent months since small island states Vanuatu and the Maldives called for ‘serious consideration’ of it at the International Criminal Court’s annual assembly of States Parties in December 2019.

The timing of the convening of the panel is of great importance with this week being the 75th anniversary of the Opening of the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, where the terms Crimes against Humanity and Genocide were famously first defined.

On Friday 20 November 2020, Philippe will be in attendance at a ceremonial event to mark 75 years since the opening of the Nuremberg Trials, in the presence of Germany’s President Steinmeier. Following video messages from Secretaries of State and Foreign Ministers of the former Allied Nations, Philippe will be one of a small number of speakers at the event to be held in Nuremberg’s historic Courtroom 600 where the trials took place.

Philippe said:

‘It is a great privilege to be in Nuremberg’s Courtroom 600 on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the opening of the Nuremberg trials the moment when our modern rules of international criminal justice came into being.

My grandfather, who lost most of his family in the Holocaust, could hardly have imagined that his grandson might, seventy five years later, share a stage with the President of Germany in this remarkable room.

For UCL too there is recognition and I express my gratitude to my colleagues for the steadfast support of my teaching, research and esoteric writings on the Nuremberg matter’.

Read more about the event on 20 November and how to watch the broadcast