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Addressing the Intentional Destruction of the Environment during Warfare under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court

Book | 1st edition 2015 | United Kingdom | Steven Freeland

Acts perpetrated during the course of warfare have, through the ages, led to significant environmental destruction. These have included situations where the natural environment has intentionally been targeted as a ‘victim’, or has somehow been manipulated to serve as a ‘weapon’ of warfare. Until recently, such acts were generally regarded as an unfortunate but unavoidable element of armed conflict, despite their potentially disastrous impacts. The existing international rules have largely been ineffective and inappropriate, and have in practical terms done little to deter deliberate environmental destruction, particularly when measured against perceived military advantages. However, as the significance of the environment has come to be more widely understood and recognised, this is no longer acceptable, particularly given the ongoing development of weapons capable of widespread and significant damage.

This book therefore examines the current international legal regime relevant to the intentional destruction of the environment during warfare, and argues that such acts should, in appropriate circumstances, be recognised as an international crime and should be subject to more effective rules giving rise to international criminal responsibility. It also suggests a framework within the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as to how this might be achieved.

As short video-presentation of the book can be found here (courtesy of www.vpro.nl).

‘The purpose of international law has developed far beyond regulating relations between States, and has increasingly extended to prohibit conduct or activities with very harmful effects to the international community as a whole, and on individuals. One such prohibited conduct is the intentional and wanton destruction to the natural environment during armed conflict. Professor Freeland, in this book, has painstakingly and in a sophisticated manner recommended how individuals committing such a crime could be brought within the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague. It is highly recommended.’
Abdul G. Koroma, former Judge, International Court of Justice

‘Whilst international law has made significant strides in regulating the conduct of armed conflict, there is increasing concern about the environmental impacts of warfare. Deliberate environmental destruction can have devastating effects on present and future generations; yet, in terms of international criminal law, there has been relatively little by way of progress to deter such acts. This book is therefore extremely timely and presents a comprehensive and thought-provoking perspective as to why and how this concern could be addressed. With its insightful analysis, the book will undoubtedly stimulate further debate in this area, and is highly recommended to all those concerned with the impact of armed conflict on the natural environment.’
Erkki Kourula, Judge, International Criminal Court (Appeals Chamber)

‘Steven Freeland argues in favor of adding crimes against the environment to international law and to the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court. His writing is pragmatic, skillful, and also full of heart. His is the most convincing argument for a proposition well ahead of its time. His book is a must-read. Freeland’s research is compendious, his view clear-eyed, and his style gifted. Freeland’s book, however, transcends environmental protection. He is among the fore-runners when it comes to thinking creatively about the sources of violence, insecurity, and instability in the international order. Yet, all the while, he retains the wisdom not to posit law as rapture saving us from collective rupture.’
Mark A. Drumbl, Class of 1975 Alumni Professor of Law and Director of the Transnational Law Institute, Washington and Lee University

‘Through the comprehensive analysis offered in Professor Freeland’s book, the role of environmental security in the prevention of conflict and the creation of lasting peace and stability is becoming clearer. […] By illustrating how the intentional destruction of the environment during warfare could be considered a crime before the International Criminal Court, hopefully Freeland’s thorough and insightful analysis can contribute to the mission of the ICC– and other international initiatives – in deterring these acts and ensuring a more peaceful and stable world. His book is not only a substantial piece of solid academic work and therefore sets a standard for future researchers in this area, it is also a well-written and truly interesting piece for the (international)   academic or practitioner that has a general interest in the highly relevant topic of environmental protection in armed conflict.’
Philipp Ambach in Leiden Journal of International Law (2017)

Steven Freeland’s book is thus a timely and welcome addition to this debate. […] The most original contribution of the book rests in the definition of the new crime, as well its analysis. […] The review of the literature conducted in this book is complete and informative, and the arguments are clearly made and defended with enthusiasm.[…] Freeland builds a strong case in favour of broadening the jurisdiction of the ICC.’
Eliana Teresa Cusato in JICJ (2015) 1169

‘[...] a long overdue and highly important contribution to the development of international humanitarian legal regulation in response to acts of intentional environmental destruction during armed conflict.
[a] must not only for military lawyers and strategists within the military establishments, but also for professionals in civil administration concerned with the environmental impacts of war, for academic researchers in environmental protection, for non-governmental organisations in that same field, and certainly also for law students who have taken an interest in the law of war.’
Frederik Harhoff in Neth. Int. Law Rev. (2017) 343

Technical info
More Information
Type of product Book
Format Paperback
EAN / ISSN 9781780683140
Series name Supranational Criminal Law: Capita Selecta
Weight 570 g
Status Available
Number of pages viii + 354 p.
Access to exercice No
Publisher Intersentia
Language English
Publication Date Jun 10, 2015
Available on Jurisquare No
Available on Strada Belgique No
Available on Strada Europe No
Available on Strada Luxembourg No


  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One. The Imperative to Regulate the Intentional Destruction of the Environment during Warfare under International Criminal Law
  • Chapter Two. Regulation of the Intentional Destruction of the Environment during Warfare under Treaty Law
  • Chapter Three. Regulation of the Intentional Destruction of the Environment during Warfare under Customary International Law
  • Chapter Four. Regulation of the Intentional Destruction of the Environment during Warfare under the Existing Rome Statute Regime
  • Chapter Five. Incorporating Crimes against the Environment into the Rome Statute
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Curriculum Vitae