Environmental destruction and land-grabbing

By going after associated offenses as crimes against humanity, the ICC can drive an international response.

With agricultural expansion targeting areas with insecure land rights across the global south, there has been growing demand for a response from the international community.

In 2014 and 2015, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) supported communications to the ICC alleging widespread and systematic forced evictions and civilian population displacement stemming from land-grabbing by Cambodia's ruling elite. The communications stated that the situation, affecting over 800,000 people since 2000, had reached the threshold for crimes against humanity.

Land-grabbing typically describes a situation in which communities or individuals lose access to land previously used to support their livelihoods, to persons or entities for harmful purposes, such as speculation, extraction, resource control, or commodification. Such purposes can in turn lead to destruction of the natural environment.

The ICC Prosecutor’s 2016 policy on case selection and prioritization added new focus to crimes committed through or resulting in destruction of the environment, the illegal exploitation of natural resources, or the illegal dispossession of land. Although this policy shift did not create any new category of crimes for the Court, it did mean investigating claims of land-grabbing and environmental destruction when assessing whether a Rome Statute crime has likely taken place.

With this heightened focus, the ICC can contribute to environmental conservation efforts while also bringing elusive justice to civilian communities harmed by agricultural expansion.

What other global issues can the ICC help tackle?