The International Criminal Court ("ICC") intends to prioritise the prosecution of cases involving the destruction of the environment, illegal exploitation of resources and land-grabbing, according to a new Policy Paper on Case Selection and Prioritisation published by the ICC's Office of the Prosecutor ("OTP") in September. A number of NGOs declared the announcement to be a "warning shot" to company executives and investors that they might be tried for their role in these crimes.
The Policy Paper follows a recent trend of calls for international tribunals – including the ICC – to investigate corporate involvement in land-grabbing and environmental destruction committed during peacetime. At the present time, the risk of a company or its executives being prosecuted at the ICC for these crimes seems remote; there are serious practical and jurisdictional hurdles to any prosecution actually taking place. Nonetheless, the reputational risks for a company of being associated with an investigation into any of the crimes that fall within the ICC's jurisdiction – genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity – could be devastating.