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As part of the first major revision of its criminal code in over a century the Belgian government has proposed the inclusion of a crime of ecocide into domestic law, a move championed by the Minister of Climate, Environment, Sustainable Development and Green Deal, Zakia Khattabi.  The new crime has been included in the federal Minister of Justice Vincent van Quickenborne’s proposed reforms of “Book 2” of the Penal Code.

The core operative text of the proposed crime has been revealed by Minister Khattabi as the following:
“deliberately committing an unlawful act causing serious, widespread and long-term damage to the environment knowing that such acts cause such damage.”

Although somewhat narrower in scope, this is clearly aligned with the international consensus legal definition of the Independent Expert Panel convened by the Stop Ecocide Foundation.  

The bill (full text not yet available) will come to the Federal Parliament for discussion over the coming weeks, amendments may be motioned, and a final text will eventually be voted on.  

With this bill Belgium will become the first European country to recognise ecocide as a standalone crime dealing specifically with the most severe and long-term harms to nature.  This is a hugely positive development and will encourage other states both to move towards domestic legislation and also to support the initiative at the regional and international levels.

"Alongside the international dynamic, and to give it every chance of succeeding, it is important that States pave the way", Minister Khattabi declared.  “I am delighted and congratulated that Belgium is among the front runners in this area. I would like to thank my colleague Vincent Van Quickenborne for the excellent collaboration in this area.”

The proposed crime was a work of collaboration between the environment and justice ministries.

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