Maldives, on December 3, applied to the International Criminal Court (ICC) located at The Hague for the crime of ecocide, or wide-scale, long-term environmental damage, to be added to the court's jurisdiction.
The application was made, at the 18th Session of the Assembly of State Parties to the Rome Statute of ICC, by Hoarafushi MP and Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Climate Change and Environment, Ahmed Saleem.
In the statement delivered at the session, Saleem declared that the time was ripe to amend the Rome Statute that would criminalise acts that amount to ecocide.
"Countries at the frontline of climate change, such as the Maldives, do not have the luxury of time to negotiate for another international legal instrument to fight against environmental crimes", he announced.
Noting that the gravest threat to the Maldives and to humanity at large is climate change, Saleem listed out a few consequences of climate change such as killing an increasing number of people every year, depriving tens of millions of people of freshwater, displacing populations and, as a result, leading to conflicts and potentially large-scale involuntary migration.
"Climate change is eroding our way of life, livelihood, economy and our aspirations for a better future. It is destroying the very foundations of our economy and our natural defence system".
Highlighting the lack of concrete action at the multilateral level to bring about transformative changes necessary to prevent repercussions caused by climate change, Saleem asserted, "We are gravely concerned that this inaction will ultimately lead to the death of nations such as ours".
At the same session, the Pacific island of Vanuatu joined Maldives in the fight for ecocide to be considered an international crime equivalent to genocide.
Maldives is amongst the four low-lying atoll nations identified as being most at risk of extinction due to sea-level rise, in addition to the Marshall Islands, Kiribati and Tuvalu.