Mock trial at The Hague calls on ICC to take action against biotech giant Monsanto (VIDEO)
Dubbed a three-day "moral trial" and arranged by an international coalition of rights and environmental groups, the event includes people's assemblies at the Hague and around the globe.
"This tribunal might not be legally binding, but it will highlight the urgent need for similar legal mechanisms to hold corporations accountable for the damage they cause in the pursuit of profit," said Global Justice Now food campaigner Heidi Chow in a statement.
The mock trial also coincides with the release of a scathing new report which claims that it's not just Monsanto's products that have been harmful, but also that the biotech giant's political influence and lobbying efforts have also contributed to a global erosion of democracy, environmental chaos, and social injustice.
The report was published by the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) entitled , "Monsanto Lobbying: An attack on us, our planet and democracy," is intended to serve as a guide to the tribunal's proceedings.
The tribunal comes as Monsanto edges closer to a $66 billion deal with German chemical giant Bayer, to form the largest GMO and pesticide company in the world.
Monsanto is already one of the largest producers of genetically modified seed and herbicides such as Roundup, a widely used weedkiller that has sparked debate over whether or not it is carcinogenic to humans.
Monsanto regularly faces accusations ranging from damaging the environment to facilitating the production of GM foods that some people believe are unsafe for humans.
In 2012, the company was found liable in a civil suit in France for the “chemical poisoning” of a farmer, who suffered headaches after working with Monsanto herbicide, Lasso.
Its pursuit through the courts of small farmers over seed patents has also generated controversy. The company has also been tainted by its production in the 1960s of the harmful chemical Agent Orange, used by the US government during the Vietnam War.
Activists say the company’s considerable financial clout has allowed it to consistently settle cases out of court, allowing it to circumvent “legal precedent” and making the task of bringing future criminal charges against the firm “impossible”.
As a result, between October 15 and 16, the International Monsanto Tribunal is staging a “symbolic” trial, which organisers say will “assess the case against Monsanto and the damages caused” in accordance with international law.
Over the course of the two days, 30 witnesses and five “renowned judges” will be involved in the crowdfunded proceedings.
The panel of judges includes consultant to International Criminal Court, Dior Fall Sow, and Jorge Fernandez Souza, who is currently based in the Court of Administrative Litigation in Mexico City. The trial does not have any legal function but will use UN human rights and the International Criminal Court as guiding principles, according to the organizers.
“The aim of the tribunal is to give a legal opinion on the environmental and health damage caused by the multinational Monsanto,” a website for the civic action explains.
“This will add to the international debate to include the crime of Ecocide into international criminal law. It will also give people all over the world a well documented legal file to be used in lawsuits against Monsanto and similar chemical companies.”
In an open letter posted to the company’s website, Monsanto’s Human Rights Steering Committee described the tribunal as a “stunt” by people “fundamentally opposed to modern agriculture”.
“We truly believe that an event staged with a pre-determined outcome is not conducive to the open and deep dialogue that human rights and agriculture deserve to find real solutions to the challenges of hunger, food security, and the role of farmers to nourish our growing world sustainably,” the letter states.