Friday, September 23, 2011

Justice for all? International Criminal Law and the Environment

By Matthew Gillett
Debating Human Rights is is proud to welcome Mr. Matthew Gillett from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia as this week’s guest blogger
“Now, as a result of this disaster, lives have been lost, businesses have been decimated, communities that had already known great hardship now face the specter of sudden and painful economic dislocations, untold damage is being done to the environment; damage that could last for decades”
Press statement by President Barrack Obama following BP Gulf Oil Spill, 1 June 2010
The world faces an environmental threat of catastrophic potential. Climate change, deforestation, loss of biological diversity and pollution are increasingly ravaging the planet.  President Obama’s words convey the destruction wrought on the American people and the local environment following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Irrespective of whether or not BP or its representatives could face criminal charges for that disaster, it demonstrates the destructive capabilities of mankind.  One potential mechanism for addressing and seeking to curb examples of egregious damage inflicted on the environment is international criminal law. Despite the rapid development of international criminal law over the lasts two decades, prosecutions at the international level of those responsible for severe environmental destruction have remained rare and have not resulted in convictions.  Nonetheless, with other efforts to address environmental damage stalling, it is worth considering the increased use of international criminal law as an additional tool to confront extreme cases of environmental damage of concern to the international community.
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