Jérôme de Hemptinne, Concluding Observations on the Influence of International Environmental Law over International Criminal Law, Journal of International Criminal Justice 20(5) (January 18, 2023)

This symposium has shown that international environmental law (IEL) can play a significant role in strengthening the protection of the environment in armed conflict in two main respects. First, IEL can provide interpretative guidance for ambiguous international humanitarian law (IHL) rules protecting the environment,so that these rules can be read in accordance with environmental standards that have progressively emerged from IEL treaties and customary principles over the last decades. Second, IEL rules and practices can play a complementary role in filling gaps left by IHL. Indeed, several international agreements which aim at promoting international cooperation among states to protect the diverse components of the environment in peacetime — such as the fauna, the flora, biological diversity, freshwater resources, rivers, or seas — provide concrete mechanisms which can, to a certain extent, be transposed and implemented in the context of warfare. IEL could potentially have a similar impact on the development of international criminal law (ICL). Indeed, the interpretation of the provisions on war crimes (Section 1) and crimes against humanity (Section 2) of the Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC)1 could also be guided by environmental legal instruments and their underlying rationale.2 Additionally, IEL could have a normative effect by shaping a new fifth ‘core’ international crime — ecocide — in a more ‘ecocentric’ direction (Section 3).3