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Belgium and the recognition of ecocide as a crime.

On 22 February 2024

The House of Representatives passed the bills introducing Book I and Book II of the Criminal Code.  The reform includes depenalising or decriminalising certain offences, introducing new offences, modifying the penalties for certain offences or adapting criminal provisions to form a coherent whole in the new Penal Code and/or to better reflect reality. 

Among the many provisions is the insertion of a new offence: the crime of ecocide. 

Article 94 §1 of the new Criminal Code defines the crime of ecocide as follows:

"The crime of ecocide consists of deliberately committing, by act or omission, an unlawful act causing serious, widespread and long-term damage to the environment in the knowledge that this act causes such damage, provided that this act constitutes an infringement of federal legislation or an international instrument that is binding on the federal authority or if the act cannot be located in Belgium", whether committed in times of peace or war. (unofficial tranlsation) 

20 July 2023
After an initial reading by the government in November 2022, and following the opinion of the Council of State issued on 9 June, the Council of Ministers approved the second reading of the reform of the Criminal Code on 20 July, which includes the crime of ecocide. 

Following the opinion of the Council of State, the new offence will enable serious environmental damage in breach of federal legislation to be classified as ecocide.
As the crime of ecocide is considered to be a serious offence, it will be included in the new scale of penalties at level 6 (imprisonment of between 10 and 20 years).

05 November 2022

The Belgian government 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.


May 2022

Expert Commission for the revision of the Belgian Penal Code’s advice on the inclusion of a crime of ecocide in the Belgian Penal Code was published in a Journal of Law. According to the Expert Commission, the serious nature of the damage justifies the inclusion of a international crime of ecocide in the revised Penal Code. 

02 December 2021

The Parliament adopted in plenary session the text of 09 November by a majority (96 to 39 votes). 

01 December 2021 

Belgian MP, Samuel Cogolati,  tabled a law proposal to introduce the concept of the crime of ecocide into the Belgian Criminal Code.

November 2021

The Commission of External Affairs of the Belgian Chambre of Representatives of the Belgian Parliament voted on a draft resolution calling the government to include the crime of ecocide in the Statute of Rome of the International criminal Court and in the Belgian Penal Code.

July 2021 

A draft resolution was submitted to the Federal Parliament to include ecocide in the Belgian Criminal Code. With the recognition of ecocide as a crime in Belgian criminal law, Belgium would be a forerunner in Europe.

December 2020 

Sophie Wilmès vice-Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs at the 19th General Assembly of the International Criminal Court, pleaded for member states' attention to the new international crime of 'ecocide'. 

October 2020 

The Belgian government committed in its coalition agreement to take steps to recognise ecocide as a crime in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and in its own criminal code.  A committee of experts set up by the Minister of Justice has issued a positive opinion about it. 

L'écocide dans le code pénal Belge: About Us

Belgium at the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. 

December 2022

General Debate, Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court: Foreign Minister Hadja Lahbib reiterates Belgium’s “willingness to engage in consideration of the introduction of a crime known as ‘ecocide’ into the Rome Statute system.”

December 2021

Belgium supports raising awareness of ecocide internationally in its official statement to the International Criminal Court’s Assembly and intervenes (see 1h26m) in official ICC side event.

December 2020
The official statement made to the ICC Assembly of States Parties by Deputy Prime Minister / Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmès makes Belgium the first European nation to raise the question of the criminalization of ecocide before the International Criminal Court.

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