International Criminal Court to prosecute environmental crimes and 'land grabs'

If you haven’t yet heard, there was big news out of The Hague today. The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will start focusing on crimes linked to environmental destruction, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and unlawful dispossession of land. You can read the full story here.

While full details are yet to emerge, this is a significant step forward in the fight for global justice. At the very least, it recognizes the wide-spread importance of land rights and environmental crimes.

It would be great to hear what you all think about this announcement. Do you think this will lead to significant change? Will it deter offenders? What reservations, doubts or hopes do you have? What role might we, as advocates, play as the ICC moves forward with pursuing such investigations?

Take note @clp_partners, @namati_ej, @namati_clp, @namati_salone, @vivekmaru, @terralawsonremer, @michaelotto - figure you would all, in particular, be interested in this.

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Thanks McKinley! Its been making the news around here. I also listened to a clip of Bensouda’s interview- the ICC would need to provide further clarification. The fact that these issues are now within the radar of the ICC will begin to provide some leverage.

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This is great, thank you for sharing McKinley!

For those more familiar with international law than I, what does

“Environmental crimes will now be considered in investigations of cases that fall within the ICC’s existing remit”

mean?

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I was wondering the same thing. It seems to suggest that perhaps they will not take on new cases that are in and of themselves centred on environmental crimes, but will follow up on such crimes if they fall within larger cases that are already in the ICC’s remit. So perhaps not quite as big of an announcement as it initially sounds like?

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Very good information, thank you for sharing it.

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Great news

The International Criminal Court (ICC) announced that it will start focusing on crimes linked to environmental destruction, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, and unlawful dispossession of land.

Keep us informed of this more as it went on

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Per @marenabrinkhurst and @mckinleycharles question regarding what [quote=“marenabrinkhurst, post:3, topic:25301”] “Environmental crimes will now be considered in investigations of cases that fall within the ICC’s existing remit” [/quote]

might mean, my understanding is that this refers to the jurisdiction of the ICC. According to the Rome Statutes the ICC has jurisdiction over persons (particularly relevant since most international courts only deal with states) who commit the most serious of crimes of concern to the international community. This is a rather high burden to meet and the Rome Statute defines these crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes of aggression). These crimes have specific definitions so it would seem that what the ICC is doing is allowing themselves the leeway to also pursue environmental crimes when they are in conjunction with these defined crimes.

Potentially, the court will use the definition of one of the crimes, for example

“‘crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: . . . (k) Other inhuman acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health”<

in order to incorporate environmental crimes into one of these defined crimes that the ICC has jurisdiction over. Notice that there is still a high bar to meet of the criminal act being done intentionally to harm others, so many actors may still avoid liability so long as their actions were not intended to harm persons. The extent to which then this will be useful in bringing certain actors to justice or providing relief will be dependent on how the court will interpret intentionality for these crimes in the future and how the court fits these crimes within its current jurisdiction.

It is worth noting as well that the ICC has a number of mechanisms for bringing cases forward, when a State Party or the Security Council brings a case to the attention of the court, or through approval from the Pre-Trial Chamber. In looking at the policy document the ICC released with this announcement, it appears that they will emphasize the role of independent Prosecutor’s in identifying these cases and pursuing them and is currently developing an evolving case selection criteria. The policy document also emphasizes the limited number of cases that the Court will take on, in keeping with it’s jurisdictional purview of crimes with significant ‘gravity.’ All this is to say that the Court will only take on really egregious environmental cases and that they are to some extent hindered by whether the case is brought to their attention and compliance of State Party’s in bringing actors before the Court.

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Thank you, @rorypulvino, for sharing this info and insight. It will be interesting to watch and see how this develops.

Thanks for the information, that’s a welcome news,but it’s so far from us… I wish our courts in Liberia could speed up hearing on land cases. There are lots and lots of land issues in Liberia which have been in court for many years.

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Indeed. While it is a good step forward, ultimately we need changes to the laws and processes at the national level.

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Am curious to know how the ICC will extend its mandate to environmental crimes. The ICC statute defines alll its crimes, in a specific context. I don’t see where environmental crimes will fall in. But this would be a good step forward towards land rights protection since there is the lack of international regulation in respect of the right, of course with the exception to regulation of indigenous peoples’ land rights and women`s land rights.