WORLD: International Criminal Court Unlikely to Prosecute Environmental Crime

Publisher Name: 
Environment News Service

WASHINGTON, DC -- The International Criminal Court is not likely to prosecute environmental crimes due to military actions, a new report prepared for the U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute concludes. It examines the possibilities of environmental damage during military action becoming a criminal liability for military personnel and/or their contractors before the newly formed International Criminal Court (ICC).

The report, entitled "Environmental Crimes in Military Actions and the International Criminal Court (ICC) - United Nations Perspectives," was written by The Millennium Project. This international think tank including more than 1,000 futurists, scholars, business leaders, scientists and policymakers from more than 50 countries, acts under the auspices of the American Council for the United Nations University.

Military actions aim to destroy and often damage the environment - toxic munitions, land mines, unexploded weapons, oil spills, depleted uranium shells, the destruction of forest ecosystems with herbicides as in the American war in Vietnam, millions of barrels of Kuwaiti oil burned off by Iraq during the Gulf War, emitting tons of pollutants such as carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide into the air.

But after examining a range of perceptions within the UN Secretariat, selected UN Missions, and relevant academic and nongovernmental organizations, the Millennium Project report concludes that there is no intention in the United Nations and UN Missions to prosecute environmental crimes due to military actions before the ICC. No plausible scenarios of military action were found that would lead to ICC cases of environmental crime.

The report lists the factors that would have to come into play for prosecution to happen, as well as a number of scenarios that trace probable actions by the ICC in case of environmental damages. The bar is set very high for prosecution before the ICC.

The one paragraph that refers to environmental damages - article 8(2)(b)(iv) - states that for the purpose of the Rome Statute, "war crimes" means, "Intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects or widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated."

Jerry Glenn, Millennium Project director, said while it is unlikely that military actions could result in ICC prosecution, there is no ironclad guarantee.

"While our findings indicate that it would be highly improbable that there will be any prosecutions for environmental crimes due to military actions in the ICC, one cannot say that it is certain that no peacekeeper or unilateral military personnel could be charged with environmental crimes and tried by the International Criminal Court," he said.

The International Criminal Court (ICC), which now has 79 state parties, came into force on July 1, 2002 and will try individuals accused of committing genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. The Court exercises its authority only if the home country of the impeached does not want to prosecute. The court does not have retroactive jurisdiction.

The United States is not a party to the ICC. President George W. Bush said on July 2, "The International Criminal Court is troubling to the United States...President [Bill] Clinton signed this treaty, but when he signed it he said it should not be submitted to the Senate. It therefore never has been, and I don't intend to submit it either, because it - you know, as the United States works to bring peace around the world, our diplomats and our soldiers could be drug into this court and that's a very troubling - very troubling to me."

"We'll try to work out the impasse at the United Nations. But one thing we're not going to do is sign on to the International Criminal Court," the President said.

The mission of U.S. Army Environmental Policy Institute is to assist the U.S. Army Secretariat in developing proactive policies and strategies to address environmental issues that may have significant future impacts on the Army.

Robert Jarrett of the Army Environmental Policy Institute said the Millennium Project report is "of immense help to us." It "helps us reliably fulfill our obligation to look ahead and around the corner to understand emerging environmental issues in their many facets," Jarrett said.

In addition to its flagship "State of the Future" report, the Millennium Project also produces studies in other specialized areas, including counter-terrorism strategies, future issues of science and technology, environmental security, United Nations Millennium Summit analysis, early warning and decision making, long range goals for governance, "African Futures 2025" and "Future Research Methodology."

The Millennium Project's "State of the Future" report addresses the international situation on 15 global challenges, many of them environmentally related. The 15 challenges include: sustainable development, water, population and resources, democratization, global, long term policymaking, the globalization of information technology, the rich-poor gap, threats to health, decisio nmaking capacities, conflict resolution, improving women's status, transnational crime, energy, science and technology and global ethics. Find out more at:

AMP Section Name:Environment
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