Berta Cáceres, an environmental campaigner who won the Goldman Prize in 2015 was murdered in March 2016. Photo: Prachatai / Flickr

By Mihai Andrei
16 September 2016

(ZME Science) – In what has been hailed as a major shift, the International Criminal Court (ICC) will also start focusing on crimes linked to environmental destruction, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and unlawful dispossession of land.

The ICC is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. It has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, focusing on those four main aspects. The ICC is intended to complement national judicial systems. Now, it will expand its area of activity to environmental crimes.

The ICC is intended to complement national judicial systems so it can only act when certain conditions are met, but this is still important. Campaigners and human rights lawyers have repeatedly asked for this, citing the numerous cases when national courts don’t recognize the severity of environmental crimes or when local corruption prevents the judicial system from maintaining a proper course. […]

The moves comes also after the UN has reported that the killing of environmental activists has reached ‘epidemic levels’. A whopping 908 activists were assassinated in the past decade and the trend isn’t slowing down. Last year was the worst on record for land rights campaigners with more than three people killed each week in conflicts over territory with mining companies, loggers, hydro-electric dams or agribusiness firms, Global Witness said. [more]

International court to prosecute environmental crimes

By Chris Arsenault; Editing by Katie Nguyen
15 September 2016

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The International Criminal Court (ICC) said on Thursday it would start focusing on crimes linked to environmental destruction, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and unlawful dispossession of land in a move hailed by land rights activists.

Company executives or politicians could now be held responsible under international law for illegal land deals which violently displace residents following the shift, campaigners and lawyers said.

Since it was set up under the 1998 Rome Statue, the Hague-based court has focused on prosecuting four main crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression.

Environmental crimes will now be considered in investigations of cases that fall within the ICC's existing remit, according to Global Diligence LLP, a London-based human rights law firm said in a statement.

Campaigners and human rights lawyers said the move reflects increasing global recognition of the severity of environmental crimes. It also allows victims to seek justice through the international criminal justice system if their complaints are not heard in national courts.

"The ICC is adapting to modern dynamics of conflict," Alice Harrison from the UK-based campaign group Global Witness told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"This shift means it can start holding corporate executives to account for large-scale land grabbing and massive displacement happening during peace time."

The shift comes ahead of a decision by ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda on whether to investigate a case filed by human rights lawyers in 2014 accusing Cambodian officials and businessmen of engaging in illegal land dispossession.

Global Diligence LLP, the firm representing the Cambodian plantiffs, said the ICC's policy shift opens the door for the case to be investigated by the court. [more]

International court to prosecute environmental crimes in major shift


  1. Anonymous said...

    This will be about as effective as the IPCC. Virtually EVERY major court in the world is plagued with bureaucratic incompetence and malfeasance. It is nearly impossible to gain a conviction or uphold one. Justice is simply not served, but monied interests most certainly are. So I am not holding my breath that the ICC will be effective or change anything. Nothing is being done to address the root causes and reasons for environmental crimes (and nothing will). Humans will continue to deplete the Earth of its remaining resources until there is nothing left. They will do this individually and as businesses and no amount of "legislation" is going to change any of this. There is a real possibility the ICC will just be another band-aid and a distraction for the ongoing plundering of the planet. I've lived too long to believe anything else.  


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