Practice Relating to Rule 45. Causing Serious Damage to the Natural Environment
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case in 1995, Solomon Islands maintained:
The extraordinary power of nuclear weapons and the enormity of their effects on human health and the environment necessarily means that their use violates, directly or indirectly, those rules of the international law of armed conflict which prohibit:
– the use of weapons that render death inevitable;
– the use of weapons which have indiscriminate effects;
– any behaviour which might violate this law.
Additionally, international law now also regulates the methods and means of warfare with the aim of ensuring appropriate protection for the environment. It establishes, in particular, an absolute prohibition on the use of weapons which will cause “widespread, long-term and severe damage to the environment”. [Articles 35(3) and 55 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I are quoted.] There can be little doubt that any use of nuclear weapons would cause “widespread, long-term and severe damage” to the environment, engendering a violation of Articles 35(3) and 55 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol I] and the customary obligation reflected therein.
In its oral pleadings, Solomon Islands further invoked “the existence of a customary norm prohibiting significant environmental damage in war”.
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case in 1995, Solomon Islands stated:
The [1976 ENMOD] Convention signals widespread recognition of the need to limit the use of the environment as a weapon of war, without diminishing in any way the customary and treaty obligations establishing clear norms for the protection of the environment which must be followed in times of war and armed conflict. As supplemented by the more detailed and emphatic obligations of [the 1977 Additional Protocol I], it is submitted that [the 1976] ENMOD [Convention] now reflects the customary obligation not to cause “widespread, long-lasting or severe” harm to the environment.