On 4 October 2022, the Consultative Council of European Prosecutors (CCPE) adopted its Opinion No. 17 (2022) on the role of prosecutors in environmental protection.
The CCPE takes into account that the environmental crimes and related infringements increasingly become a source of global concern, and therefore gives a voice to prosecutors in order to stress their role as key actors in any strategy for the protection of the environment, public health and safety, and for the defence of individuals' rights to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. The Opinion stresses that increased and sustained attention by prosecutors to environmental crime and law enforcement is essential to strengthen the rule of law on which the environmental governance is based.
The Opinion adopted takes into account the guiding principles on environmental protection and sets out guidelines and recommendations for action of prosecutors in criminal, administrative and civil proceedings in environmental cases. It addresses a range of pertinent issues related to environmental crimes and sanctions, effective investigation and prosecution, institutional aspects, interdisciplinary and inter-institutional cooperation and coordination. It also highlights the very important role of non-governmental organisations and civil society as stakeholders in the implementation and enforcement of environmental law, without prejudice to the independence and autonomy of the prosecution services.
The necessary legal tools and investigative techniques should be put to the disposal of prosecutors in order to combat environmental crime. Parallel financial investigations focusing on both the environmental crimes and the connected money laundering offences simultaneously are one of the effective tools to identify larger criminal networks and disrupt financial flows.
Furthermore, the regular review of links between environmental crimes and other serious crimes, notably organised crime and corruption, as well as crimes committed in the context of armed conflicts through means of warfare, and of the availability of adequate tools and channels for national inter-agency and international co-operation are also critical. With regard to the latter, Opinion emphasises that prosecutors should always treat international co-operation requests on environmental matters with the same diligence and priority level as all other criminal matters. In particular, establishment of additional official mechanisms and procedures for a swift and effective cross-border investigation must be envisaged.
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