International Monsanto Tribunal on Crimes Against Humanity and Ecocide held at ISS
Crimes against humanity and ecocide at the International Monsanto Tribunal
Crimes against humanity and ecocide were on the agenda at the International Monsanto Tribunal, held at the ISS from 15-16 October.
Organized by a group of lawyers, scientists, government officials, activists, and academics - including ISS Assistant Professor, Mindi Schneider – this was a citizen’s tribunal with two primary aims:
- Building on the 1967 Russell Tribunal, the Monsanto Tribunal provided a public space for considering how the products and practices of transnational agribusiness firms (taking Monsanto as a prime example, though not sole offender) impact human health and the environment.
- The Tribunal’s ongoing and long-term aim is to contribute to the development of international law by including the crime of ecocide as a prosecutable offense.
The Tribunal was composed of a panel of five prominent international judges, who were asked to consider whether Monsanto’s activities are in compliance with UN legal instruments. The legal team of the organizing committee (including former Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter, and other legal scholars and attorneys) posed six questions to the panel of judges on Monsanto’s activities.
Questions concerned rights that are recognized in international law – the right to food, the right to a safe and healthy environment, and the right to free and impartial scientific research – as well as a question about whether Monsanto’s past and present practices would constitute the crime of ecocide, if it were recognized in international law.
The judges heard testimonies of 30 people from around the world affected by Monsanto’s products and practices; testimonies of farmers, indigenous group, and researchers, some of whom have already sought justice in national courts.
The judges are now deliberating. They will not pronounce judgment, nor will they assign fault. They will, however, provide an 'advisory opinion' on the six questions, based on witness testimonies, scientific studies, and legal precedents compiled by the legal team. This opinion will be published in the spring of 2017, and shared with governing bodies in the UN and in national courts.
According to Judge Françoise Tulkens, the Chair of the Monsanto Tribunal, the goal of the advisory opinion is to educate the public and the legal community about crimes against humanity and nature that go unpunished, and to influence international human rights law.