Date01 July 2017
Published date01 July 2017
AuthorHarro Asselt
The notion of environmental crime covers a variety of
acts prohibited by law, such as illegal logging, illegal
waste disposal, illegal wildlife trade and so on. Although
many nations have set up legal frameworks e.g., in
administrative or in criminal law to monitor and
enforce environmental laws, and punish crimes leading
to environmental destruction, environmental crimes
increasingly transcend national boundaries. Criminal
networks operate across borders, and environmental
crimes in one country can be facilitated by a lack of
enforcement in another. The international relevance of
environmental crimes is further evidenced by the fact
that they can undermine the effectiveness of multilat-
eral environmental agreements, such as the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna
and Flora, the Basel Convention on hazardous waste
and the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting
The role of international law in tackling environmental
crimes received renewed attention in the past year. In
part, this was sparked by the release of a paper by the
Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal
Court, which indicated that it may in the future look at
issues such as land grabbing or the destruction of the
This development highlights how envi-
ronmental crimes can be situated on the interface
between various fields of international law, including
international criminal law, international environmental
law and international trade law. Yet notwithstanding a
wide range of efforts in these various areas of interna-
tional law (as well as initiatives at regional and national
levels), environmental crimes continue to contribute to
environmental degradation and jeopardize the achieve-
ment of objectives of environmental treaties.
Against this backdrop, this special issue of RECIEL
focuses on the role of international and European law
in tackling environmental crimes.
It is important to acknowledge upfront that the interna-
tional governance of environmental crimes is multi-
faceted. There is no single international legal regime
addressing environmental crimes. Instead, as Lorraine
Elliott shows in the first article of the special issue,
transnational environmental crimes are governed by a
regime complexinvolving a variety of international
institutions and actors. Elliott maps this regime com-
plex and identifies how several of its elements interact
with each other. Beyond environmental treaties, she
discusses the relevance of international criminal law
institutions, including the United Nations (UN) Con-
vention against Transnational Organized Crime,
INTERPOL, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and the
World Customs Organization. Elliott not only maps the
various institutions, but also points to emerging forms
of cooperation between them. Focusing on the case of
wildlife crime, she suggests that there is some conver-
gence between the approaches to environmental crimes
adopted under international environmental and crim-
inal law regimes.
The other articles in the special issue adopt a regional
focus, with two examining environmental crimes in the
Asia-Pacific context and two in the European context.
First, Giovanni Broussard zooms in on illegal wildlife
trade in South East Asia. He discusses the challenges in
effectively tackling environmental crimes in the region.
While various countries have put in place laws and pol-
icies to address environmental crimes, Broussard shows
that divergences in the standards applied in monitoring
and enforcement, as well as inadequate cooperation,
still allow wildlife criminals to get off scot free.
Although initiatives have been launched at the regional
level to facilitate international cooperation, these initia-
tives themselves need to take into account that various
government agencies should work together to address
wildlife crime.
Next, Gregory Rose examines transnational coordin-
ation of the enforcement of environmental criminal
law, with a focus on cooperation between the Australian
and Indonesian governments on the issue of illegal log-
ging. Rose explains how measures adopted in Australia,
such as legal assistance and anti-money laundering reg-
ulations, can be helpful in countering illegal logging.
However, drawing on a hypothetical case study of an
environmental crime, he also shows that there are still
important legal hurdles to overcome before effective
cooperation can be achieved.
Moving to the European context, Michael Faure offers a
critical review of the history of European environmental
criminal law. Faure traces how since the 1970s, environ-
mental criminal law has become part of criminal law in
a broader sense in many Member States, as opposed to
being limited to administrative law. He further shows
that criminal law is increasingly used as part of a larger
suite of measures to address environmental crimes,
with criminal law only being employed in case other
measures do not achieve the desired result. While Faure
thus argues that Member States have learned their les-
sons, he suggests that the 2008 European Union (EU)
Environmental Crime Directive has thus far failed to
Office of the Prosecutor, ‘Policy Paper on Case Selection and
Prioritisation’ (International Criminal Court, 15 September 2016),
found at: <https://www.icc-cpi.int/itemsDocuments/20160915_OTP-
ª2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.
RECIEL 26 (2) 2017. ISSN 2050-0386 DOI: 10.1111/reel.12208
Review of European Community & International Environmental Law

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