International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Native Tribes

All of the situations we’ve looked at so far have involved some form of understood warfare/contentious activity between governments, militia groups or opposition parties. I am wondering what room there is for the ICC to investigate cases of crimes against humanity beyond the context of warfare, if at all. Specifically I am thinking of polluting an environment and ruining resources while knowing that it has a considerable detrimental effect on groups of people. This article from al Jazeera references the grave effects that the activities of private companies have had on native tribes.

This could just be too broad of an interpretation of ICC jurisdiction; but it seems like there might be some room for it, because of the classification of internally displacing people as a crime. Additionally, the article mentions that the affected groups have tried to seek redress in the relevant courts, but have been unsuccessful;

Sarayaku is situated deep in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle. In 1996, the Ecuadorian government gave oil-rich land in Sarayaku to the Argentine company CGC. So far, the Sarayaku protests and the legal action have prevented drilling. In 2003 they took their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It has still yet to rule on the dispute.

How would the ICC interact with this situation? It seems like being a “court of last resort” would apply.


2 responses to “Native Tribes

  1. michaelbasumass March 3, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    This is a very interesting situation. I feel like it would be exceedingly difficult for the ICC to prosecute a large or multinational corporation with no real precedent for it. The “court of last resort” rule definitely applies, especially because there is no direct armed conflict and the results on the victims are indirect.
    In the Ecuador situation, the Ecuadorian government was the one who gave the land to the oil company and is consenting to and facilitating the environmental degradation. Are government officials from Ecuador then “the most responsible” for allowing it to happen, or is the CEO of the oil company most responsible? Or maybe the employee who designed the operation? This seems like a very tricky situation to get the ICC involved in, especially because it is so young and hasn’t really had enough time to prove itself as an effective prosecutor of crimes against humanity.
    Also, while the situation of indirect displacement of indigenous peoples is a terrible and serious issue, I think that expanding the jurisdiction of the Court beyond armed conflict where there is direct violence could set a dangerous precedent. The ICC needs to stay a court that punishes elite perpetrators of the worst crimes. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of those happening right now, and the Court needs to keep its narrow focus so as not to spread it out too thin.

  2. Alana Tiemessen March 4, 2012 at 10:11 am

    This is a really interesting issue area. Corporate criminal liability is not within the jurisdiction of the Rome Statute. But some scholars have done legal analysis on how corporate actors could be held accountable for activities that fuel or exacerbate conflict – especially for the crime of pillaging (which is a crime under the ICC’s jurisdiction). I think it’s true too that pillaging can fuel population displacement. And in some cases corporate actor collaborate with armed groups in the exploitation of resources to fund conflict. The Congo is an excellent example of these – where the mining of minerals and control of these areas causes and fuels conflict. And the cocoa trade played a role in the history of violence in Cote d’Ivoire. Here are a few articles on the issue:

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