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International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law,
and Environmental Security: Can the International Criminal Court
Bridge the Gaps?

27 Pages Posted: 16 Apr 2001  

Mark A. Drumbl

Washington and Lee University - School of Law


Creating mechanisms to promote individual accountability has become a focal point of activity for international lawyers. This activity has, among other things, led to the adoption of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. The Rome Statute innovates on both the procedural and substantive fronts. Along with creating an enforcement mechanism in the form of the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Rome Statute also refines prior customary and conventional rules by providing a detailed list of what can prospectively be sanctioned as the "most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole." In this regard, the Rome Statute creates important linkages between human rights, international humanitarian law, and international criminal law. But these linkages are far from complete. One area in which the Rome Statute is somewhat reticent relates to the environmental consequences of war and environmental crimes generally. This may in fact reflect a disjunction between international environmental law and humanitarian concerns. This gap should trouble international lawyers: just as armed conflict often creates a context in which the most serious human rights abuses occur, so too, does it create a similar context for the infliction of wanton and extensive destruction to the environment. Part II of this Article explores the insecurities caused by the environmental consequences of armed conflict. Part III examines the successes and failures of the international legal order in controlling these consequences and directs its focus on the ICC's jurisdiction to prosecute environmental war crimes. Part IV argues that the ICC may not be particularly well-suited to sanction environmentally destructive behavior. Part V is proscriptive, sketching ways in which the promotion of environmental security can be made more effective. In the end, the effective promotion of environmental security requires a multifaceted approach that combines criminal prosecution, preventative measures, and specially tailored remedies.

Keywords: environment, armed conflict, international law, criminal punishment

JEL Classification: K32, K33

Suggested Citation

Drumbl, Mark A., International Human Rights, International Humanitarian Law, and Environmental Security: Can the International Criminal Court Bridge the Gaps?. ILSA Journal of International & Comparative Law, Vol. 5, No. 2, Spring 2000. Available at SSRN: or

Mark A. Drumbl (Contact Author)

Washington and Lee University - School of Law ( email )

Sydney Lewis Hall
Lexington, VA 24450
United States
540-458-8531 (Phone)
540-458-8488 (Fax)


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