Practice Relating to Rule 45. Causing Serious Damage to the Natural Environment
Section A. Widespread, long-term and severe damage
New Zealand’s Military Manual (1992) states:
Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and
severe damage. This protection includes a 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 and thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population.
[emphasis in original]
Under New Zealand’s International Crimes and ICC Act (2000), war crimes include the crimes defined in Article 8(2)(b)(iv) of the 1998 ICC Statute.
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case in 1995, New Zealand stated:
Protection of the global environment is now a major concern of the international community, with widespread support for progressive development of international treaty law in this area. The condemnation of the large-scale environmental damage wreaked upon Kuwait by Iraqi forces during the “Gulf War” in 1991 was in part a reflection of this concern. It would be a matter for consideration by the Court whether the avoidance of widespread, long-term and severe damage to the environment during war could yet be regarded as itself a rule of customary law.
In its oral pleadings before the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case
in 1995, New Zealand invoked a principle of IHL whereby “parties to a conflict must not 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”.