GoJIL Vol. 10, No. 1 (2020)
Business, Armed Conflict, and Protection of the Environment: What Avenues for Corporate Accountability?
In July 2019, the International Law Commission (ILC) provisionally adopted, on first reading, a series of draft principles on the protection of the environment in relation to armed conflict (the Draft Principles). The role of businesses in armed conflict is addressed in Draft Principle 10 and Draft Principle 11. The latter, in particular, requires States to implement appropriate measures to ensure that corporations operating in or from their territories can be held accountable for environmental harm in the context of armed conflict.
The inclusion of those two Draft Principles reflects increasingly vocal calls for corporate accountability, which has been the focus of the growing field of Business and Human Rights (BHR), an umbrella term encompassing a variety of legal regimes from tort law to criminal law.
This contribution will look at the link between businesses, the environment, and armed conflict. Using the newly adopted Draft Principle 11 as a starting point, it explores three major liability regimes through which businesses could be held accountable for damage to the environment in armed conflict: State responsibility, international criminal law, and transnational tort litigation. Using case studies, the article discusses some of the challenges associated with each of those regimes, before concluding that the cross-fertilization phenomenon observed in this article (between public/private law, domestic/international level, and across various jurisdictions) is making BHR an increasingly salient discipline and useful tool in the fight against impunity for corporate environmental harm in armed conflict.
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