Masimanyane welcomes ICC decision to prioritise environmental crimes


Masimanyane welcomes the decision by the International Criminal Court to now also prioritise crimes that result in the “destruction of the environment”, “exploitation of natural resources” and the “illegal dispossession” of land.

Women, particularly those in poor countries, are affected differently than men by environmental degradation. They are among the most vulnerable to climate change, partly because in many countries they make up the larger share of the agricultural work force and partly because they tend to have access to fewer income-earning opportunities.

Women manage households and care for family members, which often limits their mobility and increases their vulnerability to sudden weather-related natural disasters. Drought and erratic rainfall force women to work harder to secure food, water and energy for their homes, with girls often forced to drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks.

As the Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen notes, "Advancing gender equality may be one of the best ways of saving the environment, and countering the dangers of overcrowding and other adversities associated with population pressure. The voice of women is critically important for the world’s future – not just for women’s future.”

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action identified three strategic objectives in the critical area of women and the environment:

-Involve women actively in environmental decision-making at all levels. -Integrate gender concerns and perspectives in policies and programmes for sustainable development. -Strengthen or establish mechanisms at the national, regional and international levels to assess the impact of development and environmental policies on women.

The Guardian newspaper reports:

"The UN-backed court, which sits in The Hague, has mostly ruled on cases of genocide and war crimes since it was set up in 2002. 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 on Thursday 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. The ICC’s policy paper on case selection and prioritisation declares: “The office [of the prosecutor] will give particular consideration to prosecuting Rome statute crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in, inter alia, the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land. Land-grabbing has become increasingly common worldwide, with national and local governments allocating private companies tens of millions of hectares of land in the past 10 years." The anti-corruption campaigners Global Witness say this has led to many forced evictions, the cultural genocide of indigenous peoples, malnutrition and environmental destruction. Alice Harrison, an adviser at Global Witness, said: “Today’s announcement should send a warning shot to company executives and investors that the environment is no longer their playground. 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. The ICC’s policy paper on case selection and prioritisation declares: “The office [of the prosecutor] will give particular consideration to prosecuting Rome statute crimes that are committed by means of, or that result in, inter alia, the destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources or the illegal dispossession of land.”Land-grabbing has become increasingly common worldwide, with national and local governments allocating private companies tens of millions of hectares of land in the past 10 years.The anti-corruption campaigners Global Witness say this has led to many forced evictions, the cultural genocide of indigenous peoples, malnutrition and environmental destruction. Alice Harrison, an adviser at Global Witness, said: “Today’s announcement should send a warning shot to company executives and investors that the environment is no longer their playground."

Download the latest ICC Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritisation here.

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