ICJ: Expand recognition of rights of climate activists

ICJ: Expand recognition of rights of climate activists - Civic Space

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On May 6, 2024, ARTICLE 19 and a coalition of civil society organisations filed a written statement before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with regards to the request for an Advisory Opinion on the “Obligations of States in respect of Climate Change.” In the statement, we argue that the ICJ should take this request as an invaluable opportunity to deepen and expand international standards on the human rights – including freedom of expression, public participation and the right to protest – of those at the forefront of the climate movement. 

On April 12, 2023, the UN General Assembly submitted a request for an Advisory Opinion to the ICJ to clarify the obligations of States under international law to ensure the protection of the climate, for both present and future generations, from man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The request also sought clarification of the legal consequences under these obligations should States cause significant harm to people, present and future, by worsening climate change or failing to address it in a timely manner. 

While not part of the official case file, this written submission will be treated as a readily available publication and may accordingly be referred to by States and intergovernmental organisations presenting official statements in the case. It posits three main arguments:  

  1. States’ climate and human rights obligations require them to protect environmental defenders and their right to protest, which includes civil disobedience. 
  2. Because of the unique risk environmental defenders face, States have a reinforced obligation to protect them. 
  3. States must take a differentiated approach to protecting environmental defenders to account for the additional struggles faced by women, Indigenous peoples, Afro-descendants, and rural farming communities. 

The Advisory Opinion represents an important opportunity to deepen and expand international standards on the rights of those at the forefront of the protection of the environment and addressing the impact of climate change, especially due to the urgent nature of the climate crisis and the growing attacks against environmental defenders.  

We urge the Court to use this Advisory Opinion to encourage States to adopt advanced best practices to better protect environmental defenders globally. 

Read the full submission