Saturday, April 6, 2013

Bloodless yet deadly? Is that possible? Shifting legal geography: examples of climate change, cyberwars, and drones

In the UK, jurists in 2011 held a mock trial, Test trial convicts fossil fuel bosses of 'ecocide'
 This trial is refreshingly international in scope.

Who among us does not tacitly accept the legal geography that gives geographic boundaries' primacy over other empowerment to judge actions? That assumption sprang from kingdoms and nationalities, in which jurisdiction is identified first by place under control, historically assumed to be also the place of occurrence, and secondarily by category of behavior.  This spatial view of law has been stretched and bent by events that cross those geographic boundaries.

International law has wrestled with cases such as environmental damages by Chevron in the Amazon, as well as acts of genocide in the Balkans, while publicly acknowledged genocide goes unprosecuted in central Africa.  International law has blank spots, such as what to say about cyberwars, acts of militias funded from outside a country, detainees at Guantanamo, or un-manned drone attacks in Asia that were guided by military individuals sitting in buildings in the US. 

Cyberwar attacks may emerge as an exceptionally provocative example of cross-boundary attacks.  These can cause the downfall of many enterprises, but a link to personal damage or environmental damage is inconclusive.    Bloodless yet deadly? Is that possible? 

A disturbing rumor about prosecuting acts of genocide, and by inference ecocide, is that allegedly only individuals have been convicted of acts of genocide. How odd is that? How true is that? If so, is it likely to change?

As the journalist for the Guardian wrote in 2011: " is worth noting that Bolivia has already passed laws granting all nature equal rights to humans. Furthermore, ecocide could become an international crime by amendment of the ICC's Statute of Rome, which would need 86 nations to back it. Are there 86 states backing the ICC who feel climate change, the crisis in the oceans and other environmental problems are trashing their "peaceful enjoyment" of the Earth's bounty?"

Don't we know of organizations that can be held responsible for hate crimes or other hostile acts, and don't we want to call those acts something criminal, without limiting to old categories of conspiracy, or war? 

April 6, 2013 Joan Savage

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