The academy hosted prestigious personalities such as Professor William Schabas, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at Middlesex University/ Leiden University; Judge Sir Howard Morrison from the International Criminal Court, The Hague, Netherlands; Judge Professor Wolfgang Schomburg, International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (2001 – 2008), Durham University; Judge Sir David Baragwanath, Appellate Judge and Former President of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon; Prof Phillip Weiner, Chief of the Legal Division in the Office of the Co-investigating Judges at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia; Dr Mohamed El Zeidy, Legal Adviser, Pre-Trial Division, International Criminal Court; Patrick Schneider, Rule of Law Adviser, European Union Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina; Mr Krmanj Othman, Member of KRG High Committee for the Recognition of Genocide against Yezidi Kurds and other minorities; and many more distinguished academics in Law, Criminology, Human Rights and Politics.
As a MSc student of Disaster Management and Sustainable Development I have to say I hugely benefited from participating in this Summer Academy and could not stress enough how valuable experience that was. The event, even though it was hugely focused on International law, had a very multidisciplinary dimension. The topic discussed were up to date, concerning current global issues such as, the implications of Brexit, the situation in Palestine; War Crimes, Human Rights violations, terrorism and forced displacement. One of the most interesting aspects covered, bringing hope for the future of the planet, was highlighting the issues of environmental degradation and ecocrime.
On the 4th day of the Summer School we heard from Dr Tanya Wyatt, Professor Nigel South and Dr Damien Short in a series of lectures focused around the topics of extinction, ecocide and extreme energy.
Dr Tanya Wyatt started off with a big question: “is extinction ecocide?” and then went on to discuss impacts of ecocide on justice and security. She introduced the participants to the notion of green crime and green criminology. She pointed out that many, if not all, laws are currently very much anthropocentric in their approach, designed to protect humans, institutions and organisations and paying little attention to the interest between humans and environment. Dr Wyatt stressed the fact that disciplines such as law and criminology are starting to be looking at the environmental concerns recognizing ecological crisis. Thus the anthropocentric approaches are starting to be challenged. She asked a question of ‘why do we actually need to challenge this anthropocentric approach?’ The damaging impact of human activities has been largely ignored by many disciplines for years but environmental destruction is currently at the tipping point so there is an urgent need to bring attention to that destruction and figure out how we can govern it.
Ecocide was described as a serious destruction of the environment to the extent that it cannot support life any longer. Dr Wyatt therefore questioned whether ecocide can be described as the 5th crime against peace as its consequences are far reaching and affect the quality of life on earth as well as the overall health of environment.
Professor Nigel South carried on with topics relating to ecocide, as well as environmental and indigenous justice. He started off with a statement that although we all engage in law and law does serve humans; it does not serve all humans equally because of inherent power relationship issues. He stressed that different people such as marginalized populations, peasants, farmers or women have different relationships with the environment and are affected on a different scale by environmental degradation. He also noted that the world in which we live is now facing extinction, danger and many human rights related problems. Therefore it is crucial that we understand the hidden politics of law making and international decision making, together with the distribution of power and the production of knowledge so that we can influence the processes of policy making.
Dr Damien Short explored the topics of genocide and how it is connected with environmental destruction. He recalled the work of Raphael Lemkin who argued that environmental destruction on a particular land can lead to physical and cultural destruction of groups, and thus ecological destruction can be seen as a method of genocide. Then Dr Short carried on talking about the processes of extreme energy extraction, unsustainable energy consumption and what footprint this has on the environment.
All speakers made one thing clear: we are connected with the environment on such a level that when the damage to the environment happens it can lead to the damage of communities and directly to humans.
Unfortunately, the International Criminal Court does not identify the environmental destruction as a criminal offence. However, the notion of ecocide brings lots of hope that the current situation will be changed and environmental degradation will be indeed recognized as a criminal offence.
Overall, the Summer Academy was a great place to raise the awareness of the global consequences of environmental degradation. It was also a great opportunity to meet with academics, other postgraduate students and researchers from around the world to discuss the major issues today’s world is facing.
If I could tell something to someone who’s considering participating in next year’s edition I would say: just do it, you won’t regret it. It will broaden your horizons and make you even more passionate about justice. It will add invaluable information to your existing knowledge and inspire you to be an agent in creating a brighter future.
MSc Disaster Management and Sustainable Development