Convention for the protection of environment through criminal law

(ETS No. 172)

Open for signature by the member States of the Council of Europe and the non-member States which have participated in its elaboration, in Strasbourg, on 4 November 1998.

Entry into force : This Convention will enter into force after 3 ratifications.

Summary of the treaty

The Convention is aimed at improving the protection of the environment at European level by using the solution of last resort - criminal law - in order to deter and prevent conduct which is most harmful to it. It also seeks to harmonise national legislation in this field.

This new  legal instrument obliges Contracting States to introduce specific provisions into their criminal law or to modify existing provisions in this field. It establishes as criminal offences a number of acts committed intentionally or through negligence where they cause or are likely to cause lasting damage to the quality of the air, soil, water, animals or plants, or result in the death of or serious injury to any person.

It defines the concept of criminal liability of natural and legal persons, specifies the measures to be adopted by states to enable them to confiscate property and define the powers available to the authorities, and provides for international co-operation.

The sanctions available must include imprisonment and pecuniary sanctions and may include reinstatement of the environment, the latter being an optional provision in the Convention.

Another major provision concerns the possibility for environmental protection associations to participate in criminal proceedings concerning offences provided for in the Convention.