Ecocide: the Fifth International Crime against Peace?

International law acknowledges four international crimes:

Crimes against Humanity, War crimes, Genocide, Crimes of Aggression.
This HagueTalks, organised on the occasion of the 14th Assembly of State Parties to the
International Criminal Court in The Hague, sheds light on the devastating consequences
of large scale environmental contamination and the search for justice.
Experts discuss the validity of arguing environmental crimes at both international and
national jurisdictions and the need for laws to protect the Earth.

Humberto Piaguaje – Chief of Ecuador’s Secoya indigenous tribe
Pablo Fajardo Mendoza – Attorny and recipient of the Goldman Prize and CNN Heroes Award
Daniela Palacios – International dispute resolution lawyer
Michael Baumgartner – Greenpeace Switserland

Jeff Handmaker – International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam

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Talk of Humberto Piaguaje – Full text

HagueTalks 25 November 2015

Indigenous peoples, and in my case the Siekopai people, are originally from the jungle. It is our natural habitat, and any of the riches that might exist are those that come from Mother Nature. Because of this we respect and worship her. She is holy to us and we believe that in her that are spiritual forces that only our wise men get to know. Those spirits teach us how to live with dignity and in harmony with nature and in ways that we never harm or abuse her, unless there is the dire necessity to do so.
We care and protect the jungle because it is our supermarket, our pharmacy, our university and temple.We take care of our rivers because in them live the “guardians” that protect and multiply the fish and other creatures that swim about in their waters.
The air is the home to spiritual beings and angels, and the place where our loved ones go to rest. It is the space where there are powers and supernatural forces that men cannot control. It is the place where our God “Ñañë,” sovereign and protector of the Universe.
Destroying the jungles to us is like killing our brothers. Cutting a tree is like killing my grandfather. Destroying the jungle will end the lives of indigenous peoples because all their traditional knowledge, spirituality and cultural philosophy that the jungle contains would be lost forever. Nowadays, indigenous peoples and nations are poor in material means but so rich in cultural heritage and spirituality. However, our wealth is contained in biodiversity, and we are slowly being stripped of it.
If we harm nature by using it irresponsible use, management or pollution we are killing Mother Nature, We are weakening her and leaving her barren. We are belittling where we lay our dead and where new live is continuously born.
Extracting oil from the ground is like taking the blood of my brothers. As the oil in the soil is to us the blood of our ancestors.
Sadly, our spiritual sciences, culture, oral traditions, history, literature, design, art and music are disappearing every day. Because of this we wonder, “what will be of the children of these peoples that have maintained this natural wealth for centuries?” The knowledge that those who call themselves “civilised” being great characters, developed nations and TNCs have yet to comprehend. What will become of our lands that we need to be able to understand harmonies between man and nature? What will become of rivers that barely carry any drinking water and many more are even poisoned? What will be of our sacred skies that nowadays hold nothing but pollution?
It is time for indigenous peoples and activists to raise our voices and protest because natural wealth and the last remainders of it should not be exploited nor commercialised like it has been in the past 50 years in our country, Ecuador.
On one hand, the jungle and air are suffering the consequences of the irresponsibility of large corporations. On the other hand, nature continues being taken apart in schemes of greedy carbon trading proposals.
Indigenous peoples are seeing their environments and lives trades as commodities in the international system that lacks the interest to preserves their customs and livelihoods. I cannot see how and why not nature and natural ways of living in harmony with it is being protected.
I know that there are different agreements and declarations, and of course the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. But, I believe they are just mere compromises between states that lack any sort of compromise from corporations. How are they safeguarding nature and human lives? Which corporations have promised to respect them?
When we start analysing the state of things and discover that companies are on the loose and are protected by bilateral agreements within states. They created a model to control developing countries, and in doing so, ignored the existence of indigenous peoples.
Now is the time to analyse and come up wit the best strategy that will allow us to control corporate interests and the consequences these may have over nature. It is time to come to an understanding between peoples, nations and continents to save the world from the tragic future it is heading towards, before it is too late to turn the clocks.
Our fights has become an example to follow because we have united indigenous peoples and farmers even if we are diverse in our cultural, historical and language background. In the last 22 years we have fought with great sacrifice for the protection and strengthening of our people and ways of live. And, in order to guarantee the existence of our future generations and of all people on this planet.
Chevron knows what it is doing to our people and how it is polluting our land, our waters, the air and jungle. They also know how much money they are making out of the ecocide and ethnocide we are subjected to.
There is good reason to continue the fight. Because, although Chevron was sentenced in Ecuador is still refuses to pay. And when it does, we will be recognised because of one of the longest ever legal proceedings in history. Yet, I say with a heavy heart that, we will never win. We will never be able to recover the lives both human and in nature that have been lost because of the actions take by the extractive industry, whether it was by Chevron, or as Texaco before that.
This reckless corporation still refuses to take responsibility for their actions. They continue treating indigenous peoples and farmers like criminals or gangs that are trying to blackmail them. Corporations are victimising themselves, by waving their money around and buying or extorting however is best suited to their needs. In doing so, they are extending the litigations and families, animals and jungles continue dying. Meaning that, there is no guarantee for any generation to come. Life has become a silent death, wealth has become poverty, and our spirituality continues weakening us. Chevron cannot submit any arguments in their defence because they know very well what they did and continue doing. The committed and continue committing crimes of ecocide and ethnocide.
We will continue our fight and will not rest until the Chevron pays the last of its dues to repair the little we have left. This fight is not just of the Ecuadorian indigenous peoples and farmers, but it is all of our fight. If you want to live in dignity, breathe fresh air and live in healthy lands with clean water, it is your fight too. We all spend on one another to take care, respect and love our environment, just as much as we take care, respect and love ourselves.
Thank you very much.