The International Climate Crimes Tribunal
Question: what if we don't solve the climate emergency, and 100s of millions are killed by it? What are the chances that the perpetrators will ever face justice? What about those who assist them?
The International Criminal Court (ICC) was set up in 1998 particularly to deal with crimes against humanity. https://www.icc-cpi.int/about/the-court says:
"The International Criminal Court (ICC) investigates and, where warranted, tries individuals charged with the gravest crimes of concern to the international community: ... crimes against humanity"
Answer: I am sure that if millions are killed by climate change, the ICC will set up an International Climate Crimes Tribunal (or similar) to prosecute those responsible. I've highlighted the relevant statutes below.
Or skip straight to Who Will This Affect?
Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
The ICC is based on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which states:
Article 7 Crimes against humanity
1. For the purpose of this Statute, "crime against humanity" means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack:
(k) Other inhumane acts of a similar character intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health.
Article 25 Individual criminal responsibility
3. In accordance with this Statute, a person shall be criminally responsible and liable for punishment for a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court if that person:
(c) For the purpose of facilitating the commission of such a crime, aids, abets or otherwise assists in its commission or its attempted commission ...
(d) In any other way contributes to the commission or attempted commission of such a crime by a group of persons acting with a common purpose. Such contribution shall be intentional and shall either:
(ii) Be made in the knowledge of the intention of the group to commit the crime;
Article 33 Superior orders and prescription of law
1. The fact that a crime within the jurisdiction of the Court has been committed by a person pursuant to an order of a Government or of a superior, whether military or civilian, shall not relieve that person of criminal responsibility unless:
(a) The person was under a legal obligation to obey orders of the Government or the superior in question;
(b) The person did not know that the order was unlawful; and
(c) The order was not manifestly unlawful.
2. For the purposes of this article, orders to commit genocide or crimes against humanity are manifestly unlawful.
A Tangible Comparison
Consider the example of an oil depot supplying large amounts of fossil fuel (see How Many Children Can One Oil Depot Kill?). Now compare it to a train of innocents being despatched to the extermination camp.
In that comparison the business at Buncefield is like the company running the train. The people running it fall under Article 3c "aiding and abetting".
Suppose I chain myself to the train to stop it leaving. The police tell me what I'm doing is illegal, arrest me and I end up in court. The court confirms the illegality of my action. If I were not removed, the train could not proceed to contribute its part to the crime against humanity. Therefore it appears that the actions of the authorities in that case fall under Article 25 sections 3c and 3d "in any other way contributes".
For the purposes of the Rome Statutes, it does not matter that we do not know who is on that train. It does not matter that we do not know exactly how or when they will die. It does not matter that the train may take several decades to arrive at the camp, because we know (from the IPCC) that there is no reasonable chance of rescue.
Who Will This Affect?
In the 2015 Paris Agreement the governments of the world committed "to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2°C".
- Clearly, all government leaders whose policies are not compatible with the targets in the Paris Agreement can be held responsible under Article 7 for the deaths caused, because their actions are a "widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack".
- Equally, directors of large corporations, whose activities are not compatible with the targets in the Paris Agreement, can be held responsible under Article 7 for the deaths caused.
- Those working in homicidal businesses, those financing the businesses and those implementing governments' homicidal policies, in full awareness of the consequences of their actions, can be held responsible under Article 25 for the deaths caused as per (3c) "aids, abets or otherwise assists". Article 33 makes clear that obeying orders is not a defence for such crimes.
- Those arresting, prosecuting and convicting individuals acting to prevent this crime against humanity should be concerned that, if the death toll runs into many millions, the Tribunal remit will be broad and will hold them responsible under Article 25 (3c) "aids, abets or otherwise assists" and (3ds) "in any other way contributes to the commission ... of such a crime". Again, under Article 33 obeying orders is not a defence.
The United Kingdon became a signatory to the International Criminal Court on 30 November 1998 - see https://asp.icc-cpi.int/states-parties/western-european-and-other-states/united-kingdom.
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