GoJIL Vol. 10, No. 1 (2020)
Precaution in International Environmental Law and Precautions in the Law of Armed Conflict
The protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict, in particular during armed conflict is a complex problem as it involves at least two different fields of international law, the law of armed conflict (international humanitarian law) and international environmental law. Their mutual relationship is a delicate issue. International humanitarian law is not necessarily lex specialis. Three principles deserve particular attention in this connection: as to general international environmental law, the principle of prevention and the precautionary principle, as to international humanitarian law the duty to take precautions. The terms prevention and precaution are used in different contexts in environmental law (both national and international) and in the law of armed conflict. The duty, imposed by international humanitarian law, to take precautions has much in common with, but must be distinguished from, the precautionary approach of general environmental law. This paper shows what these principles mean and how they relate to each other. It answers the question to what extent the rules based on these concepts are effective in restraining environmental damage being caused by military activities. The application of these principles in peace and war serves intergenerational equity and is thus an important element of sustainable development.
Download the full text as a PDF