coal pollution protest John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images

We Need an International Environmental Criminal Court

With environmental activists regularly facing intimidation, violence, and even death, the world can no longer rely on state bodies to investigate and prosecute crimes against the planet and those who fight for it. It is time to establish an independent, internationally recognized legal body to address environmental crime.

NAIROBI – The announcement of the winners of this year’s Goldman Environmental Prize is an opportunity to celebrate activist leaders. But it is also a moment to recognize just how much courage their efforts (and those of a great many others) can demand.

When my dear friend Berta Cáceres and I won the prize in 2015, Berta said in her acceptance speech, “I have given my life for the service of mother earth.” Not long after, Berta was assassinated in Honduras. Her story is tragic, but not unique. Indeed, just months later, Isidro Baldenegro López, another Goldman Environmental Prize recipient, was shot dead.

There has never been a more dangerous time to be an environmental activist. Consider the violence unleashed against the environmental defenders protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline in the United States. Police were accused of using excessive force to try to disperse members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their supporters, who argued that the project would contaminate water and damage sacred burial sites.

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