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Intl. Criminal Court widens remit to cases on destruction of environment, exploitation of natural resources & illegal dispossession

river contamination_photo by Wikimedia

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22 September 2016

Haul all land grabbers, polluters & resource thieves to The Hague

Author: Cameron Duodu, Pambazuka News

... ICC does not enjoy much support in enlightened circles in Africa ... [T]the ICC's prosecutors have ... opened investigations into 10 situations: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Central African Republic, Sudan, Kenya, Libya, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and Georgia ... The trial processes are at various stages ... The perception of racial discrimination that the ICC has attracted to itself has in fact led to some African countries advocating disengagement of the continent from the ICC treaty ... [T]he ICC has now taken a step that could redeem it from its past flawed image and endear it to progressive people not only in Africa but in all developing countries ... The ICC announcement should sound like music in the ears of the Ghana social activists known as OccupyGhana. They have announced plans to take legal action against the Government of Ghana for its inability and/or unwillingness to eliminate the galamsey (artisanal gold mining) menace in Ghana that has already destroyed many of our biggest water bodies, such as the Birem, Ankobra, Prah, Offin, Densu and many smaller rivers like Supong...

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15 September 2016

ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases

Author: John Vidal & Owen Bowcott, Guardian (UK)

... The UN-backed court ... has mostly ruled on cases of genocide and war crimes ... It has been criticised for its reluctance to investigate major environmental and cultural crimes, which often happen in peacetime. In a change of focus, the ICC said ... it would also prioritise crimes that result in the “destruction of the environment”, “exploitation of natural resources” and the “illegal dispossession” of land. It also included an explicit reference to land-grabbing. The court, which is funded by governments and is regarded as the court of last resort, said it would now take many crimes that have been traditionally under-prosecuted into consideration. The ICC is not formally extending its jurisdiction, but the court said it would assess existing offences, such as crimes against humanity, in a broader context ... Rogers has lodged a case with the ICC on behalf of 10 Cambodians alleging that the country’s ruling elite, including its government and military, has perpetuated mass rights violations since 2002 in pursuit of wealth and power by grabbing land and forcibly evicting up to 350,000 people. “Cambodia is a perfect example for this new ICC focus. It fits in to the new criteria,” he said. He predicted it could have a bearing on the way business is done in certain countries. “Companies who want to invest in [some] places risk being complicit in crimes against humanity. Tackling land-grabbing will also help address some of the causes of climate change, since deforestation is very often a result of land-grabbing" ... The ICC paper also lists other crimes, such as arms trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism and financial crimes, in which it intends to provide more help to individual states to carry out national prosecutions.

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15 September 2016

International Criminal Court to Pay More Attention to Business and Human Rights Issues

Author: Nadia Bernaz, Middlesex University School of Law

... [T]here is no change in the subject-matter jurisdiction of the Court ... However, the policy paper is important from a business and human rights perspective because it may result in acts the Court previously considered irrelevant now being considered relevant either as contextual elements or as material elements of crimes against humanity ... It is well documented that land grabs, the exploitation of natural resources and environmental damage tend to primarily victimize already marginalized communities such as indigenous communities and other minorities. The exploitation of natural resources, for example, can result in forcible transfers of population in order to free up the space for corporations. Moreover, the International Criminal Court’s definition of crimes against humanity does not require those crimes to be committed in the context of an armed conflict. It only requires a “widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population”, which may or may not include acts of physical violence. A mass eviction, for example, could be considered an attack for the purposes of the Statute even if no blood is shed. Hence the law is already in place to allow prosecutions for crimes against humanity on those grounds ... This new policy document, therefore, is of paramount importance for the field of business and human rights. It means that governmental officials and, if relevant, corporate officials engaging in activities such as land grabs and the exploitation of natural resources are now fair game in The Hague.

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15 September 2016

Land grabbers may end up in The Hague: Global Diligence welcomes the ICC Prosecutor’s new case selection policy

Author: Global Diligence

Today the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court signalled that she will no longer stand by as kleptocratic dictatorships and businesses commit mass human rights violations in the name of profit. For the first time in history, an international criminal court will prioritise crimes within its jurisdiction that are committed by means of or result in “the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, or the illegal dispossession of land.” This new focus will help close the impunity gap for international crimes committed during peacetime, and open the door for the case filed on behalf of Cambodian victims against Cambodia’s ruling elite ... The ICC’s new policy is not only a wake-up call for political leaders intent on stealing their country’s natural resources for personal gain, but also for corrupt businessmen who seek to profit from the misery caused by illegal exploitation. The investigations undertaken by organisations such as Global Witness – who seek to expose the link between corruption, poverty and environmental degradation – have suddenly become difficult to ignore ...

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4 September 2016

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

Author: Global Witness

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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