International Prosecution of Crimes Against Culture, Environment & Animals?

Photo Credit: UNESCO

The International Criminal Court has taken the first steps toward prosecuting those who not only commit serious crimes against cultural, religious and historical heritage but also against our environment and animals. The ICC has sentenced an Al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist for destroying mosques, education and cultural sites/objects in Timbuktu, Mali. These extremists were eradicating Islamic associated heritage, (which presumably “Muslim extremists” viewed as somehow un-Islamic despite centuries tradition of development as education and cultural as well as religious sites.)  (See: Decision of ICC ).

This precedent now could be further support/precedent for prosecuting crimes against the environment or even animals, (as previously ICC was focused, when I signed ICC-Rome Statute, on “grave violations of international humanitarian law,” then mostly interpreted as crimes against persons).  Now, the definition is being defined more comprehensively and inclusively.  “The International Criminal Court will Start Prosecuting People Who Commit Crimes Against the Environment.”

Crimes against species, from poaching to perhaps simple inhumane treatment and cruelty, may also fall into crimes against the environment. (Read my Huffington Post from 2015: “Should Crimes Against Environment & Animals Deserve International Prosecution?“)  More the latest decision before the ICC, such offenses may also be crimes against our shared cultural heritage. Note the current grassroots effort and petition to initiate a United Nations/UNESCO “World Heritage Species”   – (inspired by the senseless killing of “Cecil the Lion.”) Beyond species, will animals also be viewed as “global citizens” anointed with recognition of certain rights that may not be equated to human rights but, nonetheless, may be viewed as independent and not a mere extension of such animal’s utility or connection to man/woman’s economic or cultural import? (See: Are Animals Global Citizens?)

Ambassador Muhamed Sacirbey


(Negotiator. Drafter & Signatory of ICC-Rome Statute)


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