The Ecocide Trial

Ballroom Marfa, Texas, USA, 2012

Film Ackroyd & Harvey
Edit Ackroyd & Harvey/Duncan Harris 2012
Running time 4hrs 30mins

The Ecocide Trial devised and managed by The Hamilton Group

On September 30th 2011 an unprecedented event took take place at London’s Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. Described as a ‘Mock Trial’, the proceedings followed carefully orchestrated courtroom proceedings where a Judge presided over a Jury of selected members of the public and Prosecution and Defense teams of highly regarded British Barristers. The case brought forward by the Prosecution was based on a fictionalized account of a major environmental disaster. A crime of Ecocide*.

It has been proposed that Ecocide, the environmental equivalent of genocide, becomes the 5th International Crime Against Peace alongside Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Crimes of Aggression and War Crimes. Under the proposed new law, Heads of States and Directors of Corporations will be required to take individual and personal responsibility for their actions.

The Mock Trial at London’s Supreme Court was played out as though International Courts had already adopted the Law of Ecocide honoring professional legal procedure and conduct.

The case brought to court was based on real life events: the Deepwater Horizon Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and Unconventional Tar Sands extraction in Alberta. Two imaginary Chief Executives of major corporations, played by actors, were charged with aiding and abetting the alleged crime. A Judge presided over the Trial with Michael Mansfield QC, leading the Prosecution and Christopher Parker QC leading the Defense. Before the case was heard, legal argument was put as to whether Ecocide and the Earth Right To Life should be applied to the charge against the CEO’s. Over the course of a day, expert witnesses provided evidence and the Jury decided the outcome.

Working with two ‘roving’ camera operators and a sound technician, alongside the four fixed cameras permanently installed in the Courtroom, the entire Mock Trial proceedings were filmed on HD Video Camcorder. The artwork is a durational, sequential piece that captures the unfolding real-time drama of the Trial. A time-line listing exact procedure of the day was displayed in the gallery alongside the stenographer’s report from the day’s proceedings. A series of automated feather and ink drawings were displayed that could be interpreted as ‘exhibits’, supporting ‘evidence’ for the Trial.

* “The neologism ecocide is already in use to a limited extent and describes large-scale destruction, in whole or in part, of ecosystems within a given territory. Ecocide is in essence the very antithesis of life. It can be the outcome of external factors, such as an earthquake or flooding, of a force majeure. It can also be the result of human intervention. Economic activity, particularly when connected to natural resources, can be a driver of conflict.” Eradicating Ecocide by Polly Higgins

The Trial was coordinated and produced by The Hamilton Group. Polly Higgins, the UK Barrister who has proposed the new law of Ecocide has been a guest at Ackroyd & Harvey’s ‘in-conversation’ public engagement series accompanying their Beuys’ Acorns installation at the Royal Academy of Arts “Earth” GSK Contemporary 2009.
Cameraman/editor Duncan Harris, who worked with the artists on “Stranded” oversaw the production crew.

Further information on the Mock Trial

The Trial is designed by The Hamilton Group to get Ecocide debated as widely as possible. Funds to realize the Trial have been raised by The Hamilton Group through on-line appeals, gifting of time and resources from individuals and organizations, and sponsorship drives. Polly Higgins defines Ecocide as the “mass damage, destruction to or loss of ecosystems of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been severely diminished.” But what will this mean in practice? Is it legally possible? Will it have more negative effects than positive? Would the Alberta Tar Sands mining, destruction of the Amazon rainforest or oil spills be classed as Ecocide? Who would be the individuals prosecuted under this proposed law? Would Banks be culpable as well if they provide funding for activities prosecuted under Ecocide? In reality, what effect would the law have on the environment and businesses and the people who run them? It is argued that the Law of Ecocide is a key law to address humanitarian and environmental issues on a global scale. Implementation of the Law at the 2012 Earth Summit would change inter-governmental policy and action on climate change, provide the necessary legal framework to help pre-empt the energy crunch and halt the over – exploitation of natural resources. The process of understanding the legal complexities of Ecocide starts here.

*The Hamilton Group is a not-for-profit organisation encouraging businesses, corporations and communities to bring responsibility for the world to the forefront of their decision-making. It has developed an ethos that organisations can adopt to help their thinking and decision making.

Visit Carbon 13 website 
Artdaily article

Automated feather and ink drawings by Ackroyd & Harvey

1. The Law of Ecocide
2. Dr Simon Boxall, witness for the prosecution
3. Dr Robin Perry, witness for the defence
4. Michael Mansfield QC, closing speech for the prosecution
5. Christopher Parker QC, closing speech for the defence
6. The Jury’s Verdict

The Ecocide Act
The Indictment
Stenographer’s Transcription