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By Vivi Benito
The First International Civil Trial against the biotechnological multinational Monsanto, exposed the significant social organization existing in the 5 continents to stop this deranged production model and change the paradigm. In dialogue with enREDando, the lawyer and activist Victoria Dunda, who participated in the trial, explains what the figure of “Ecocide” means as a crime against humanity and the historic trial held in The Hague, where Argentina had a leading role.
It hurts to have to talk about ecocide.
It hurts its magnitude and the global need to classify this crime against humanity, not so new but globalized, which has led to the destruction of our own habitat, of the common home that shelters us indistinctly.
It hurts because through this legal figure the historical contempt for the perfect system that enables human life, among other millions of species, within the planet is visible.
From a Latin American perspective, it is worth remembering that since the Spanish conquerors began to plunder our continent, "Abya Yala" for the first peoples of these lands, the ecosystems have had no respite, the so-called "development" has been sustained on the same matrix of looting and scrapping of Mother Earth.
Today our countries continue to export nature, we continue to provide raw materials to the countries of the "first world", we are champions in the export of commodities. Commodities or raw materials are tradable goods in the stock market: there are energy (oil, coal, natural gas), metals and food or inputs (soy, wheat, corn).
But the peoples also know how to say enough.
As has happened throughout history, real advances and transformations in the area of rights and the defense of life are interwoven from below. It is by dint of the stubborn struggle of the communities that extractive megaprojects and the permanent depredation of common property are stopped. It is the victims of the current productive economic system (extractivist / agro-industrial) who are putting this urgent and unavoidable issue on the agenda.
And it was at the impulse of organized civil society, that for the first time in history, through the International Tribunal to Monsanto (TIM), managed to publicly and globally denounce the obscene gap between international human rights and environmental legislation, and the legislation international trade and investment.
The TIM, constituted as a court of opinion (without legal competence), was created to "clarify the legal obligations and consequences of some of the activities of the Monsanto company." Among the most visible world references of this initiative that took place in the courts of The Hague in October 2016, are the French researcher and journalist Marie-Monique Robin and the Indian philosopher and writer, pioneer of the ecofeminist movement, Vandana Shiva.
In the framework of the trial, the Court made up of 5 prestigious judges, among them, the Argentine Eleonora Lamm, deputy director of human rights of the Supreme Court of Mendoza, heard the complaints of 30 witnesses from around the world and undertook to evaluate the facts that they recriminate the Monsanto company and judge the damages caused by the multinational under current international law.
The opinion of the judges was released on April 18, among the most relevant conclusions it was ruled that the multinational is responsible for violating health, environment and property rights, and for hindering the free scientific investigation of these issues. One of the priority claims was the introduction of the crime of "ecocide" into international jurisprudence, to litigate based on this crime against humanity.
In dialogue with enREDando, the lawyer and activist Victoria Dunda, a reference for the Network of Fumigated Peoples who was in The Hague, helps us understand what the figure of “Ecocide” means as a crime against humanity and the historical judgment carried out in La Beech:
- The Court asked to incorporate the crime of ecocide into the Rome Statute, the concept has to do with all those destructions that are made on the environment in general, or the effects or environmental benefits generated by ecosystems are unbalanced, which be it en masse.
- The concept has undergone several transformations, on the one hand the first biologist to talk about this, who is the creator in some way of Agent Orange, ends up saying that it is essential to legislate on the crime of ecocide due to the massive nature of the things that were putting on the market, and the magnitude they contained and the issue of applied chemical warfare in Vietnam. It raises this massive destruction on the environments and all kinds of life, both human and non-human. But it involved whoever had the intention of doing that damage.
Today the concept is broadened, whether there is intention or not, the massive effects that can be produced in the environment for a long time, it already generates a crime of ecocide and it should be stated that way. The opinion of the Monsanto International Tribunal is regarding the incorporation of this criminal figure into international criminal law. The Rome Statute defines the crime of genocide, the crime against humanity and the crime of war. So, we are asking that ecocide be incorporated into that nomination of crimes.
- What remains after the Court's opinion?
- A lot, first of all the road traveled, to get here. These courts, although they are not judicial and do not have jurisdiction at the binding level of their sentence, they are global opinions of civil society, which has the need to go out to cover a deficiency within the States by collusion or omission, on issues that are fundamental in the life of Human Rights. This is unavoidable.
Argentina had had a court in 2010 against multinationals and transnationals, within the scheme of the State. This was presented in the TIM as proof of what we had ethically decided in Argentina at the time.
On the other hand, many vicissitudes about what limit must be set with respect to the limit of transnationals on human rights and on the environment, establishes that the right to the environment is fundamental and supportive so that all other rights are fulfilled. There is no life without a healthy environment, there is no development or dignity without health, without an environment and so on. So it embodies those qualities that were already in the Stockholm Convention in 1972, but declares them again.
From the legal point of view, it leaves us strong antecedents, and mainly, the power that citizens have to have exercising democracy, as an indivisible construction, which is telling the world community that a limit must be placed with respect to transnational companies, to the rights of transnational corporations, business rights cannot go against the right to life, health and the environment, because we would be on a path of self-destruction - which we are on, precisely - and that it is necessary to leave with responsibility and With conscience, we aim at that and I believe that the Monsanto Tribunal is fundamental.
- In addition to the presentation of the testimonies, our country presented a report / document prepared by organizations and professionals from different parts of the country ...
- Yes, Argentina participated with 6 oral testimonies, 4 within the Court and 2 in the People's Assembly, with eyewitness testimonies. Likewise, our country presented a document that was prepared by social organizations, which presented all the testimonies with everything that has been said about the effects that this model has for Argentina, both on health and the environment. A compilation that was made with all scientific studies, has a specific annex on glyphosate, mostly they are studies from the UNL, the University of Rio Cuarto, the UBA, which reflect the reality of our peoples and our ecosystems.
The testimonies of Andrés Carrasco, of Damián Marino, of the fumigated schools, of the children through their drawings, of the teachers. We present a very interesting report that is also important as legal material, where the Argentine communities and organizations also made a voice through that letter. So we went with very good representation, on the one hand it is good and on the other, it is sad to have to replicate so many things so that our own and those of others understand what we are living with this model.
- What struck you the most when listening to the testimonies?
- That this model be replicated in all parts of the world that were expressed there, each continent had representatives who demonstrated how Monsanto systematically and strategically was acting. That was very impressive for me, because you see it here but you don't think it's that big, but it is and it's thought out and it's systematic.
The vulnerability of peoples in terms of the destruction of the environment, and a great social and civil responsibility to move forward in this, which implies changing subjects, changing societies, ways of life and structures. On this path we are all in some way.
Also, the quality of the people, the scientists who have been attacked, how difficult it was for them in this duality of being, on the one hand, convinced of what they do and test in their laboratories, and on the other, not being able to say it or openly commit themselves because they are persecuted, bribed, seriously questioned. The behavior of multinationals within the scientific community.
And on the other hand, it filled me with satisfaction to confirm that civil society has tools, which other struggles have given us before, and that we can continue to carry this forward and put what happens to us in this regard in public opinion.
Photo by Centro Indígena Conacin.