International Criminal Court’s new focus must ensure EU companies tread lightly

13 octobre 2016

In a move that could have profound implications for some EU companies, the International Criminal Court (ICC) recently announced that it is now assessing crimes against humanity in a broader context. The Office of the Prosecutor, which focused previously on war crimes, will now consider prosecuting crimes relating to illegal exploitation of natural resources, forced evictions and landgrabbing.

As a result, governments and individuals, including CEOs from private companies, that destroy tropical forests or seize land illegally, thereby leading to forced evictions and displaced populations, risk being tried in The Hague for crimes against humanity. Criminal penalties, including fines and imprisonment, could be imposed. The fact that investors risk being found complicit in these crimes could have serious implications for certain EU banks (FW218).

The ICC’s policy shift is relevant to the current increase in landgrabbing that displaces millions, and encouraging news for forest communities seeking justice. It gives a strong signal to governments, including the EU and Member States, to halt corporate impunity.

As a first step, the EU and Member States should stop opposing a legally binding international instrument on business and human rights, as it could help rein in corporate abuse of vulnerable people. EU support of such an instrument may help keep European businesses out of the ICC’s dock. The nature and scope of a binding UN treaty on business and human rights is under discussion, October 2016, in Geneva. NGOs call on the EU to engage in the talks to stop corporate abuse.

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