Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [James Stewart]

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



natural resources, international criminal law, Malabo Protocol, illicit exploitation


Article 28A(1)(13) of the Protocol to the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights lists ‘Illicit exploitation of natural resources’ as a criminal offense within the Court’s jurisdiction. In conjunction with the new mandate of the African Court, which includes the exercise of jurisdiction over corporations for the first time in an international treaty, the prohibition of “illicit exploitation of natural resources” creates an offense with especially sharp teeth, for business people, their corporations, military actors and politicians. The crime constitutes an important innovation in international law, since it offers a distinct legal basis for prosecution of a wider array of acts covered by the war crime of pillage. Nonetheless, it also comes with a set of major limitations, not the least of which is its great vagueness. This chapter offers a critical doctrinal overview of the seven sub-offenses that fall within the wider banner of this new crime of Illicit Exploitation, simultaneously pointing to a range of interpretative possibilities that might accord with recent thinking about the relationship between law and resource predation.



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