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Company executives could now be tried for land grabs and environmental destruction

Author: Global Witness, Published on: 4 September 2016

A move by the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to expand its focus signals a landmark shift in international criminal justice and could reshape how business is done in developing countries, says Global Witness. Company executives, politicians and other individuals could now be held criminally responsible under international law for crimes linked to land grabbing and environmental destruction ... “Today’s decision by the ICC shows that the age of impunity is coming to an end. 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. The ICC’s interest could help improve the lives of millions of people and protect critical ecosystems” [said Gillian Caldwell, Executive Director at Global Witness]. In its 14-year history the ICC has focused almost exclusively on crimes committed during armed conflict, whether crimes against humanity or war crimes. This has left a significant blind spot in the Court’s approach – it was not investigating mass atrocities committed in the name of profit that occur during peacetime. Today the Court’s Prosecutor, Fatou B. Bensouda, acknowledged this hole in its focus, adding to its priority list the investigation of crimes that result in the illegal dispossession of land, the illegal exploitation of natural resources and the destruction of the environment ... This change to ICC policy is a critical first step in addressing the legal vacuum that is helping drive violence and theft in the global trade in land ...

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