The Hague art exhibit. Clothing donated by survivors of rape as a weapon of war.


I attended the Third International Conference on Environmental Peace Building, in The Hague, The Netherlands, in June 2024. I will keep adding to this post until I finish making a narrative from my notes. My commentary in italics


  1. Session 7: Accountability, Peace and Justice (Advances in Making States and Corporations Accountable for Environmental War Crimes) 

Overarching points:

  • The Environment should no longer be the silent victim of war.
  • War in one nation affects the environment everywhere.
  • Environmental war crime definition: mass destruction of flora and fauna, poisoning of air and water resources.
  • Accountability can mean criminality and it can mean reconciliation. It is a spectrum.

Maksym Popov, Special Advisor on Environmental Crimes to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General 

Ukraine is documenting Russian environmental war crimes, with the intent of prosecuting members of the Russian Federation. The UN Charter on Human Rights includes the right to live in a healthy sustainable environment. Twenty-five % of Ukraine is now contaminated with land mines.  A dam was blown up which flooded whole communities. A nuclear research facility was bombed. Beyond these obvious breaches, they have investigated 207 other crimes of ecocide. They presented their findings in February 2024, with fifty recommendations for accountability, reconstruction and building a green economy. Twenty-five nations and many international NGOs supported their effort.

Ukraine is the first state to take this action.

Global lessons: They use an App for citizens to capture environmental damage. They worked with many organizations, scientists and technology. They hope this case will lead to the deterrence of armed conflicts, and will the nature of war to protect the environment.

Can it be used for Gaza? Yemen? Ukraine has powerful global support that makes this possible. How do we use this for other cases, current and past, where powerful Global North actors in US and Europe, are responsible for the destruction? Also, what about the environmental devastation in Russia from Ukraine? Are they fighting in a way that will not destroy the environment? 


Marcus Oreilana UN Special Rapporteur on Toxics and Human Rights (Chile)

Toxics and Human Rights  accountability in Nuclear weapons testing, even when crime happened decades ago:


Algeria where the French detonated bombs,

Kazakhstan, where the Soviets did testing, ,

Australia, who tested in Indigenous regions. People there became blind from a black mist.

Marshal Islands where the US, in 1946-8, detonated 67 nuclear bombs. Those tests have had permanent destructive effects, including a passing on of genetic defects, and continued poisoning from toxic soil and water. They have found the US guilty of denying gender and cultural rights, according to the UN charter. In 1986, the US admitted culpability by setting up a nuclear claims tribunal fund, but of course, the funds were insufficient. Citizens began a petition in the year 2000. In October 2022, the US provided some technical assistance to address the nuclear legacy in the Marshall Islands. The island cannot deal with waste.

Case lessons: By preserving the memory of injustice, and continued truth-telling, past crimes can be rectified.

In each case, the UN is setting a precedent. In the Marshall Islands, the US tried to argue that statutes of wrongful action did not exist in 1948. Counterargument: the principle of self-determination did exist, and it was violated.

Another recent case of toxicity:  the UN determined that the rights of Indigenous people was violated in Paraguay where a woman brought a case after pesticides killed her husband. In this case, the violators were found guilty — but they have continued their poisoning.

Orelliana was making an argument for uncovering historical physical trauma and its legacy. The argument was that when people speak up and keep telling the truth about their experiences there might come a time when we have the political space to listen and act.


Mununi Mutuku Principal Programme Officer, National Cohesion and Integration Commission (Kenya) 

Transitional Justice operates in post-conflict communities. When is it post-conflict? There is no clear definition.

There are judicial and non-judicial mechanisms for seeking justice for ecocide created by violent conflicts.  These include toxic dumping, deforestation,  destroying ecosystems like grasslands land mines, and destruction of livestock.  They are often transboundary ecosystems, affecting territory across borders.

Landscapes are not only physical they are also places of memories. Rivers that brought life, became waterways that carried dead bodies. They carry our history.

Transitional  Justice has in the past, focused only on people, not the environment. This is new.

In the past, we delinked humans from the environment. Now we are using laws to protect the environment from crimes against it.

If the environment is a victim, we need hearings, We need truth-telling, remediation, and restoration. We need to use Indigenous knowledge to repair. We use educational, judicial, and community-based organizations to find Transitional Justice.

People have brought up cases of landmines but, so far, the focus has been on solely on human damage not damage to the environment.

Mutuku also talked about how, in the borderlands, people have engaged in transitional justice for centuries. Often states are unwilling to cooperate.   


Keven Jon Heller, Special Adviser to Prosecutor on War Crimes, International Criminal Court (ICC). 

An Environmental Crimes Policy Initiative of the International Criminal Court ICC  is in the draft stages with plans to get it out by the end of 2024.

Environmental crimes are more likely to victimize marginalized people, children, women,  Indigenous people, low income people.  The results of these crimes are extermination, deportation,  destruction of livelihoods, poisoning, and starvation.

The process will include investigation, charging, and sentencing. We are finding ways to prosecute actors in corporations.

There are limitations: 1. We cannot supersede eco-side. 2. We focus solely on harm to humans. (We need an eco-centric approach. 3. We are understaffed and will never be able to prosecute more than a few crimes. States and civil society need to take the lead. We in ICC can support national efforts and we can bring people together transnationally.

Heller said something about the king being naked, and that is my biggest takeaway from this plenary. Victims of these environmental crimes already know the crimes committed against them.  The international community is ever so slowly starting to listen and consider methods of accountability. The power to prosecute and jail ALL those responsible would result in the upending of governments, corporations, military industrial complex, and global capitalism.  

Den Haag (The Hague)