Practice Relating to Rule 45. Causing Serious Damage to the Natural Environment
Section A. Widespread, long-term and severe damage
Switzerland’s Basic Military Manual (1987) prohibits the employment of means of warfare likely to cause “serious and long-term damage to the natural environment”.
The manual further states: “During military operations, care must be taken to protect the environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage.”
Switzerland’s Regulation on Legal Bases for Conduct during an Engagement (2005) states:
14.5 Natural environment
217 Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment against widespread, long-term and severe damage.
218 Methods and means of warfare that are intended or may be expected to cause such damage to the environment are prohibited.
In 1981, Switzerland’s Federal Council qualified Articles 35(3) and 55 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I as stating a “new prohibition”.
Switzerland’s ABC of International Humanitarian Law (2009) states:
Attacks and combat methods that can cause widespread, long-term and severe damage to the natural environment are expressly prohibited by the First Additional Protocol
to the Geneva Conventions
. The general principles of Customary international law
such as the principles of Distinction
ensure protection of the environment.
In 2012, in a speech on the occasion of Public International Law Day, the head of Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated:
Today we have at our disposal a developed body of law whose aim, for above all humanitarian reasons, is to limit the effects of armed conflicts and to protect those who take no part in hostilities. That law, which also protects cultural property and the natural environment, let us not forget it, is international humanitarian law. …
International humanitarian law then seeks to limit the consequences of armed conflicts. … It also prohibits intentionally destroying the natural environment without which a society cannot develop.