The natural environment is considered to constitute the natural world together with the system of inextricable interrelations between living organisms and their inanimate environment, in the widest sense possible. The natural environment is protected under the general principles governing the conduct of hostilities, inter alia by the prohibition to target civilian objects, by the proportionality rule protecting civilian objects against incidental effects of attacks and the obligation to take feasible precautions for the benefit of civilian objects. It is also specifically prohibited to use methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment. Attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals are also prohibited.




protection against widespread, long-term and severe

PI, 35/3 and 55

CIHL, 44-45  

prohibition of reprisals

PI, 55




Suggested reading:
ANTOINE Philippe, “International Humanitarian Law and the Protection of the Environment in Time of Armed Conflict”, in IRRC, No. 291, November-December 1992, pp. 517-537.
AUSTIN Jay E. & BRUCH Karl E. (eds), The environmental consequences of war, Cambridge, CUP, 2000, 712 pp.
BODANSKY Daniel, Legal Regulation of the Effect of Military Activity on the Environment, Berlin, Erich Schmidt Verlag, 2003, 126 pp.
BOTHE Michael, “The Protection of the Environment in Times of Armed Conflict”, in German Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 34, 1991, p. 54.
BOUVIER Antoine, “Protection of the Natural Environment in Time of Armed Conflict”, in IRRC, No. 285, November-December 1991, pp. 567-578.
BOUVIER Antoine, “Recent Studies on the Protection of the Environment in Time of Armed Conflict”, in IRRC, No. 291, November-December 1992, pp. 554-566.
DORSOUMA Hamndou & BOUCHARD Michel-André, “Conflits armés et environnement : cadre, modalités, méthodes et rôle de l’évaluation environnementale”, in Développement durable et territoire Dossier 8, 2007, 17 pp.
HULME Karen, War Torn Environment: Interpreting the Legal Threshold, Leiden, M. Nijhoff, 2004, 340 pp.
KISS Alexandre, “Les Protocoles additionels aux Conventions de Genève de 1977 et la protection de biens de l’environnement”, in Studies and Essays on International Humanitarian Law and Red Cross Principles in Honour of Jean Pictet, Geneva/The Hague, ICRC/M. Nijhoff, 1984, pp. 229-262.
MARSH Jeremy J., “Lex Lata or Lex Ferenda?: Rule 45 of the ICRC Study on Customary International Humanitarian Law”, in Military Law Review, Vol. 198, 2008, pp. 116-164.
MOLLARD BANNELIER Karine, La protection de l’environnement en temps de conflit armé, Paris, Pedone, 2001, 542 pp.
MOMTAZ Djamchid, “Les règles relatives à la protection de l’environnement au cours des conflicts armés à l’épreuve du conflit entre l’Irak et le Koweit”, in AFDI, 1991, pp. 203-220.
POWER Mark, “La protection de l’environnement en droit international humanitaire : le cas du Kosovo”, in Ottawa Law Review, Vol. 33, 2001-2002, pp. 225-254.
REYHANI Roman, “Protection of the Environment During Armed Conflict”, in MissouriEnvironmental Law and Policy Review, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2007, pp. 323-338.
SCHMITT Michael N., “Humanitarian Law and the Environment”, in The DenverJournal of International Law and Policy, Vol. 28/3, 2000, 265-323.
SPIEKER Heike, “The Conduct of Hostilities and the Protection of the Environment”, in Frieden in Freiheit = Peace in Liberty = Paix en liberté: Festschrift für Michael Bothe zum 70 Geburtstag, Baden-Baden, Nomos, 2008, pp. 741-768.
United Nations Environmental Programme, Protecting the Environment During Armed Conflict: an Inventory and Analysis of International Law, Nairobi, United Nations Environment Programme, November 2009, 83 pp.

Further reading:
ALEXANDER Nicholas G., “Airstrikes and Environmental Damage: Can the United States be Held Liable for Operation Allied Force?”, in Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 11/2, 2000, pp. 471-498.
BOISSON DE CHAZOURNES Laurence, DESGAGNÉ Richard & ROMANO Cesare, Protection internationale de l’environnement. Recueil d’instruments juridiques, Paris, Pedone, 1998, 1117 pp.
BOSTIAN Ida L., “The Environmental Consequences of the Kosovo Conflict and the NATO Bombing of Serbia”, in Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, 1999, pp. 230-240.
DESGAGNÉ Richard, “The Prevention of Environmental Damage in Time of Armed Conflict: Proportionality and Precautionary Measures”, in YIHL, Vol. 3, 2000, pp. 109-129.
DRUMBL Mark A., “Waging War against the World: The Need to Move from War Crimes to Environmental Crimes”, in Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 22/1, 1998, pp. 122-153.
GRADITZKY Thomas, “La licéité de l’emploi des armes nucléaires et la protection de l’environnement”, in L’observateur des Nations Unies, Vol. 2, 1997, pp. 23-38.
GRUNAWALT Richard J., KING John E. & McCLAIN Ronald S. (eds), Protection of the Environment During Armed Conflict, Newport, Naval War College, Vol. 19, 1996, 720 pp.
KOPPE Erik, The Use of Nuclear Weapons and the Protection of the Environment During International Armed Conflict, Portland (USA), Hart Publishing, 2008, 447 pp.
LAWRENCE Jessica C. & HELLER Kevin Jon, “The First Ecocentric Environmental War Crime: the Limits of Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the Rome Statute”, in Georgetown International Environmental Law Review, Vol. 20, No. 1, 2007, pp. 61-95.
MARAUHN Thilo, “Environmental Damage in Times of Armed Conflict – Not ‘Really’ a Matter of Criminal Responsibility?”, in IRRC, No. 840, December 2000, pp. 1029-2036.
OKOWA Phoebe N., “Natural Resources in Situations of Armed Conflict: Is There a Coherent Framework for Protection?”, in International Community Law Review, Vol. 9, No. 3, 2007, pp. 237-262.
PETERSON Ines, “The Natural Environment in Times of Armed Conflict: a Concern for International War Crimes Law?”, in LeidenJournal of International Law, Vol. 22, Issue 2, 2009, pp. 325-343.
PLANT Glen, “Environmental Damage and the Laws of War: Points Addressed to Military Lawyers”, in FOX Hazel & MEYER Michael A. (eds), Armed Conflict and the New Law, Volume II – Effecting Compliance, 1993, pp. 159-174.
REICHBERG Gregory & SYSE Henrik, “Protecting the Natural Environment in Wartime: Ethical Considerations from the Just War Tradition”, in Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 37/4, 2000, pp. 449-468.
RICHARDS Peter J., “Mars Meets Mother Nature: Protecting the Environment during Armed Conflict”, in Stetson Law Review, Vol. 28/4, 1999, pp. 1047-1090.
ROBERTS Adam, “Environmental Destruction in the Gulf War”, in IRRC, No. 291, November-December 1992, pp. 538-553.
ROBERTS Adam, “Failures in Protecting the Environment in the 1990-91 Gulf War”, in ROWE Peter (ed.), The Gulf War 1990-91 in International and English Law, London, Sweet & Maxwell, 1993, pp. 111-154.
SCHMITT Michael N., “The Environmental Law of War: An Invitation to Critical Re-examination”, in Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 6, 1995-96, pp. 237-271.
SHARP Peter, “Prospects for Environmental Liability in the International Criminal Court”, in Virginia Environmental Law Journal, Vol. 18/2, 1999, pp. 217-243.
SCHWABACH Aaron, “Environmental Damage Resulting from the NATO Military Action against Yugoslavia”, in ColumbiaJournal of Environmental Law, Vol. 25/1, 2000, pp. 117-140.
VAN DER VYVER Johan D., “The Environment: State Sovereignty, Human Rights, and Armed Conflict”, in Emory International Law Review, Vol. 23, No. 1, 2009, pp. 85-112.
YORK Christopher, “International Law and the Collateral Effects of War on the Environment: The Persian Gulf”,
in South Africa Journal of Human Rights, Vol. 7, 1991, pp. 269-290.
YUZON E.F.J., “Deliberate Environmental Modification Through the Use of Chemical and Biological Weapons: Greening the International Laws of Armed Conflict to Establish an Environmentally Protective Regime”, in American UniversityJournal of International Law and Policy, Vol. 11, 1996, pp. 793-846.
“Guidelines for Military Manuals and Instructions on the Protection of the Environment in Times of Armed Conflict”, in IRRC, No. 311, March-April 1996, pp. 230-237.