On 16 March 2016, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected on jurisdictional grounds a victims’ request to investigate a case of environmental destruction by Chevron in Ecuador. A little over a year later, on 15 September 2016, the Prosecutor released a policy paper indicating that her office would consider hearing cases of environmental destruction. This article examines how the ICC can prosecute environmental destruction as a crime against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute. It presents a survey of the potential jurisdictional and substantive issues of prosecuting environmental issues and uses the victims’ request asking the Prosecutor to investigate environmental destruction by Chevron in the Ecuadorian Amazon as a backdrop. The article proceeds in three parts. Firstly, it discusses the request by the victims in Ecuador asking for the Prosecutor to investigate. Secondly, it sets out the basic jurisdictional framework of the ICC and analyzes why the Prosecutor rejected the victims’ request. Thirdly, it examines Article 7 and concludes that while peacetime environmental destruction committed by a non-state actor that results in a humanitarian atrocity can qualify as a crime against humanity, the factual circumstances alleged in the Ecuadorian victims’ request did not amount to a crime against humanity under the Rome Statute.
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