The International Criminal Court, situated in The Hague, has the jurisdiction to prosecute what are known as “environmental crimes” without the need for any modification to its established statute. This fact was made clear by Karim Ahmad Khan, the chief prosecutor of the Hague, during his address at an international conference focused on justice, the environment, and future generations. Khan emphasized that environmental catastrophes often act as either the cause or the aftermath of war crimes or crimes against humanity. These types of crimes are squarely within the jurisdiction of The Hague Court.
Khan, the Prosecutor, also made a noteworthy announcement regarding his Office’s future plans. He revealed that by the end of 2024, his Office will formulate and publicly release a policy specifically dealing with environmental crimes.
Khan further elaborated on the types of actions that can result in environmental damage and thus be categorized as environmental crimes. These could include attacking a nuclear power plant or a dam, or the misuse of chemical substances, particularly with the intent to finance a conflict. These actions can result in environmental harm within a context that also involves genocides, war crimes, crimes against humanity, or crimes of aggression. Khan’s statements served to further underscore the fact that acts like environmental destruction, illegal resource exploitation, or the forced seizure of lands, especially when these occur in conflict zones, can be prosecuted as crimes equivalent to those that the judges in The Hague have traditionally been called upon to judge. These include genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, all of which fall under the Rome Statute of 1998 that came into force in 2002.
Khan later expanded on his point in an interview with France Presse, asserting that the Rome Statute provides the legal grounds necessary to ensure the smooth operation of every part of his Office, all in service of the well-being of both current and future generations.
The call to expand the jurisdiction of the Court based in The Hague to include environmental crimes has been a long-standing demand of activists and international organizations. These groups have mobilized over the years to protect the rights of populations and territories. The Court’s willingness to consider environmental crimes could prove to be a decisive factor in cases where victims have little to no hope of obtaining justice from their national courts.