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 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 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.
In some parts of the world, national governments simply aren’t capable (or willing) to protect environmentalists, and an international intervention would be much welcome. Hopefully, we’ll soon see a positive impact.