Table of Contents

Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law

Research Handbook on Disasters and International Law

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Susan C. Breau and Katja L.H. Samuel

International law’s role in governing disasters is undergoing a formative period in its development and reach, in parallel with concerted efforts by the international community to respond more effectively to the increasing number and intensity of disasters across the world. This Research Handbook examines a broad range of legal regimes directly and indirectly relevant to disaster prevention, mitigation and reconstruction across a spectrum of natural and manmade disasters, including armed conflict.

Chapter 6: Adverse human agency and disasters: a role for international criminal law?

Evelyne Schmid

Subjects: environment, disasters, environmental governance and regulation, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, law and development, public international law, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation


This chapter clarifies the relevance, potential and limitations of international criminal law in relation to preventing, mitigating and responding to disasters. Disasters are usually complex and rarely entirely ‘natural’ or entirely ‘man-made’. In order to gauge the relevance of international criminal law in relation to disasters, it is crucial to examine how adverse human agency can intervene at various moments in the course of the development, impact, exacerbation of and recovery from a disaster. Depending on the circumstances, adverse human agency can be such that it meets the elements of an international crime, including when a disaster is not a sudden crisis but a slow and gradual decline over time.

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