Practice Relating to Rule 45. Causing Serious Damage to the Natural Environment
Section A. Widespread, long-term and severe damage
Under Ireland’s Geneva Conventions Act (1962), as amended in 1998, any “minor breach” of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, including violations of Articles 35(3) and 55(1), is a punishable offence.
At the CDDH, Ireland referred to the adoption of Article 48 bis
of the draft Additional Protocol I (now Article 55) as an “event in the history of international humanitarian law”.
At the CDDH, Ireland, which was one of the countries that voted in favour of Article 20 of the draft Additional Protocol II, explained that it was “particularly concerned” to retain paragraph 3 of this article “because of the development of methods of warfare capable of causing widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment and the danger that such methods may be used by one side even in a non-international armed conflict”.
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, Ireland stated:
In ensuring that care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage and taking account of the prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment thereby prejudicing the health or survival of the population, Ireland declares that nuclear weapons, even if not directly governed by Additional Protocol I, remain subject to existing rules of international law as confirmed in 1996 by the International Court of Justice in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons. Ireland will interpret and apply this Article in a way which leads to the best possible protection for the civilian population.