The International Criminal Court has announced that cases involving environmental destruction, land grabs, and misuse of land will be considered crimes against humanity.
Due to recent irreparable damage that some has caused on the environment, especially on the coral reef, the ICC is looking to broaden the perspective on the definition of a war crime.
“They aren’t changing the definitions of crimes or expanding the law or creating new crimes or anything like that. They are paying particular attention to crimes that are committed by use of environmental impact or have consequences of environmental impact.”
The ICC is adopting a new strategy with this new project. Up until now, ever since it was funded in 1989, the court was in charge of investigating offenses regarding human rights and war crimes. If the current initiative is adopted, then the institution will gain more power over individuals who hurt the environment.
The usual “crowd” of the ICC is made up out of military commanders, politicians, and rebel leaders. However, if environmental destruction will also fall in the category of crimes against humanity, then big oil companies, weapon developers, and even the lumber or palm oil industry could face criminal charges.
“Company bosses and politicians complicit in violently seizing land, razing tropical forests, or poisoning water sources could soon find themselves standing trial in The Hague alongside war criminals and dictators,” Gillian Caldwell, Global Witness executive director, declared.
According to Global Witness, the number of land-grab victims skyrocketed in 2015, over three people killed weekly in conflicts over territory. Loggers, miners, agribusiness firms, and even hydro-electric dams are to blame for the deadliest year on record.
Some inside sources are speculating that the ICC doesn’t have the tools or the capacity to monitor the issue, but its involvement could be a sign of a hands-off approach.
This August, Ahmad al-Fahdi al-Mahdi, a former Islamist rebel, became the first individual charged by the ICC with the war crime of cultural destruction.
Moreover, the ICC accused China of violating the Convention on the Law of the Sea that was established by the United Nations when it destroyed coral reefs in the process of building artificial islands.
The new policy will be tested when the ICC will try the case of Cambodia. The country was accused of illegal practices including land grabbing.
“The systemic crimes committed under the guise of ‘development’ are no less damaging to victims that many wartime atrocities,” Richard Rogers declared.
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