The animal legal turn: could animals qualify as victims before the International Criminal Court?

The Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park, London (sculptor: David Backhouse)

Dr. Marina Lostal, Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Essex, published a new article titled ‘De-objectifying Animals: Could they Qualify as Victims before the International Criminal Court?’ in the Journal of International Criminal Justice.

The article notes that the legal framework of the International Criminal Court (ICC) does not contain any provision concerning animals. Yet, animals frequently appear in both trial and reparations proceedings. The lack of animal regulation at the ICC is problematic insofar as there is now a visible animal legal turn whereby their status as mere objects is increasingly being questioned and remedied at the international and domestic levels.

Dr. Lostal’s article wishes to visibilize the ‘animal question’ at the Court by examining whether they could qualify as victims under Rule 85(a) of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence. While the short answer to this outlandish question is an unequivocal ‘no’, the conclusion reached is not the purpose of the article.

The purpose lies in showing that animals cannot qualify as ‘victims’ just because they are not human beings. Yet, they comfortably meet the other two criteria, namely (a) suffering harm, which (b) results from the commission of crimes within the Court’s jurisdiction. In short, animals may not be humans, but they also suffer in connection with core crimes.

The article concludes with the observation that granting animals the same treatment as human beings is no more objectionable as a matter of legal principle than granting them the status of ‘things’. In the author’s view, this calls for a prompt discussion of the regulation of animals within the Court.

Dr. Lostal recently presented her research at the 2021 European Animal Rights Law Conference held on 17 and 18 September in the Woolf Institute on the Westminster College site in Cambridge. The article can be accessed through the publisher’s website here.

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