Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/13225
Protection of the environment in times of armed conflict under international law
The thesis is concerned with the international obligations of States towards the environment during armed conflict. At the outset, the author analyses in what ways warfare may damage the environment, drawing inter alia from the examples of the first Gulf War, the Vietnam War, and the Kosovo conflict. Against this factual background, the next chapter investigates whether the law of armed conflict or humanitarian law submit belligerent States to environmental duties. It is concluded that the law of armed conflict recognizes the environment as an interest worthy of protection, but that the prohibitions are largely devoid of practical applicability, due to their extremely high threshold of application and wide justifications for military necessity. Even the indirect protection of the environment through humanitarian provisions is found not sufficiently effective. This leads the author to the question whether more stringent restrictions could be derived from other bodies of international law. To that avail, the next chapters investigate, how human rights and international criminal law could, directly or indirectly, protect the environment during hostilities. The last chapter finally takes on the perspective of international environmental law (IEL). At the beginning of this chapter, the obligations arising from IEL on warfare itself are scrutinized. The main problem is however, whether IEL applies in situations of armed conflict. After examining the scholarly literature and the State practice on the issue, the focus turns to the Draft Articles on the effects of armed conflict on treaties, which were recently presented by the International Law Commission (ILC) to the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and contain a rebuttable presumption that environmental treaties retain full effectiveness between the belligerents and third parties. The thesis concludes that the protection of the environment during armed conflict has improved during the last century but that it remains too fragmented to provide adequate and effective protection. Given the rising public concern for the environment and the recent interest of the ILC and the UN Environment Programme in the issue, the case for adding environmental provisions to the law of armed conflict is expected to grow stronger.