International Criminal Court Public Consultation Receives Comments Advocating for End to ‘Impunity’ and Enhanced Accountability for Environmental Crimes

Following the launch of International Criminal Courts (the ‘ICC’) Office of the Prosecutor’s public consultation on increasing accountability for environmental crimes, environmental charities, academics, lawyers, and others globally have submitted comments advocating for significant changes to the current system. Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor of the ICC, made an announcement in February initiating a public consultation for establishing a new environmental crime policy paper, to be published towards the end of 2024. The policy paper aims to enhance ‘accountability, transparency and predictability’ according to the ICC’s statement, and will rely on national and international court decisions, treaties on environmental law, and customary international law rules, alongside the Rome Statute.


The ICC operates under the Rome Statute, which solely gives explicit recognition to environmental harm in relation to war crimes, and this policy paper would expand such recognition. Comments submitted to the Office of the Prosecutor point to recent developments and enhancements of the protection of the environment in different jurisdictions since the Rome Statute in 2002, such as the increasing acknowledgment of a right to a healthy environment, enhanced criminalisation of ecocide and strengthened corporate requirements under due diligence.


Comments received advocate for increased investigation and prosecution by the ICC of those who cause environmental harm. Campaigners have dubbed the current regime as impunity, with the Director of the Nuremberg Academy, Christoph Safferling, commenting that “Impunity must end for those acts whose environmental impacts result in significant and continuous human suffering.” They advocate for environmental harm to be addressed during both war and peace, and claim charges should be taken against those directly responsible and those who can be implicated as having contributed or not having done enough to stop the harm.


A joint statement from the International Nuremberg Principles Academy, University of London’s Institute of Commonwealth studies and Oxford Sustainable Law Programme interlinks environmental harm as often causing human rights violations. According to the statement, these potentially amount to crimes under the Rome Statute, including genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes, and as such, should be sanctioned. Their statement also advocates for the ICC’s legal framework to integrate the right to an environment which is sustainable, clean and healthy, and other associated rights. If there are allegations of severe violations of the rights, they propose for the evidence linked to the violations to be evaluated in a comprehensive manner.


The international organisation Avaaz gathered over 500,000 signatures launched a petition as part of the consultation, asking legislators across the globe to develop new ecocide laws domestically and internationally.


The time for submitting this round of comments has now finished and these comments will contribute to the process of reviewing and drafting, and after this initial input there will be another round of public consultations on this draft.


To read the statement of the ICC on the launch of the public consultation, click here.

To read the news article from the Oxford Sustainable Law Programme, click here.

To read the Irish Examiner’s recent news articles on the submissions, click here



Sustaining Partners