Environmental destruction is now a crime against humanity

Il land grabbing, la deforestazione e altri crimini ambientali sono entrati a far parte della lista dei reati classificati come crimini contro l’umanità, secondo la Corte penale internazionale.

Wiping out forests, contaminating rivers, and seizing indigenous lands are crimes that not only affect the environment and local communities, but also all human beings.

The effects of climate change are particularly visible in developing countries, like Bangladesh © Mushfiqul Alam/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The announcement of the International Criminal Court

The International Criminal Court (ICC), based in The Hague in the Netherlands, has announced that the destruction of the environment and landgrabs can now be considered as crimes against humanity. This represents a historic decision considering that the ICC – the highest judicial authority for international crimes – will consider environmental crimes just like genocide and war crimes.

Fighting land grabbing

One of the most serious crimes is land grabbing. It is defined as large-scale land acquisitions that happen without the consent of communities that rely on those lands for their survival. Land grabs, mainly at the hands of multinationals, have great social consequences and force entire communities to abandon their homes, leaving farmers hungry. If people refuse to leave, they’re forcibly moved. This is what ICC will try. Indonesia, Malaysia, and Papua New Guinea are the countries most affected by this phenomenon.

land grabbing
Land grabbing forces entire communities to leave their homes, to look for new lands to cultivate © In Pictures Ltd./Corbis via Getty Images)

What’s behind ICC’s decision

The last straw that led the ICC to act is land grab in Cambodia. Businessmen and politicians are involved in the case being examined by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda. She reopened a 2014 investigation on Cambodia’s government, accused of evicting 350,000 people from their home and forcing them into poverty.

The illegal exploitation of natural resources

Along with land grabs, the ICC will also prosecute crimes that are committed by means of, or result in, the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession. “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,” said Gillian Caldwell, executive director of the advocacy group Global Witness, British NGO that fights to protect human rights.

International Criminal Court (ICC)
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes © Michel Porro/Getty Images

The move has some limits

For the ICC to prosecute criminals, these have to come from one of the 139 countries of the Rome Statute. However, some of the main countries responsible for important social and environmental violations have not ratified the statute, including China, India, Indonesia, and Ethiopia.

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