Protecting the Environment During Warfare

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This study examines the international laws aimed at protecting the environment during armed hostilities between States. The events of the Gulf War of 1991 are used as a case study to assess the effectiveness of the current regime. The major incident of environmental destruction throughout the history of warfare will be examined first in order to illustrate how the environment has continuously been one of the main victims of international armed conflict. The traditional laws of war, which do not explicitly recognise the environment as a distinct concern, are then assessed as to how they may be construed to prohibit environmental destruction. The environment began to feature in the laws of war and in arms control treaties in the late 1970s. The negotiating history of the environmental provisions and the criticisms which have followed are analysed. These criticisms were reiterated at a number of conferences and meetings convened after the Gulf War of 1991 to discuss the effectiveness of the current regime. Their three major proposals for reform: a new convention for the environment; resolutions of the relevant international bodies on the need to protect the environment during hostilities; and amendment by existing mechanisms, are examined and evaluated. This thesis proposes that the third option for reform is preferable on the grounds that the environment is adequately protected by the substantive provisions currently in force. The existing procedures for amendment in the instruments dealing directly with the environment should be taken advantage of to develop a system which ensures that the substantive provisions are practical at the regulatory level. This study will conclude with suggestions as to how these improvements might be achieved.


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