The Laws of Armed Conflicts: A Collection of Conventions, Resolutions, and Other Documents

By Dietrich Schindler; Jiri Toman | Go to book overview

No. 23A
GUIDELINES FOR MILITARY MANUALS AND
INSTRUCTIONS ON THE PROTECTION OF THE
ENVIRONMENT IN TIMES OF ARMED CONFLICT

Prepared by the International Committee of the Red Cross and recommended for dissemination by resolution 49/50 of the United Nations General Assembly, 9 December 1994

INTRODUCTORY NOTE: During the Operation Desert Storm designed to end Iraq's occupation of Kuwait in 1991, Iraqi forces set Kuwaiti oil wells on fire, destroyed oil installations and discharged crude oil into the Gulf, thereby causing enormous damage to the natural environment. These acts awakened wide concern about the possibilties of international law to protect the environment in case of armed conflicts. The only two conventions of the law of war expressly referring to the “natural environment”, the ENMOD Convention of 1976 (No. 18) and Protocol I of 1977 to the Geneva Conventions (No. 56, Articles 35(3) and 55) were not formally applicable in the Gulf War, as not all belligerents were party to them. It was realized, however, that there were other provisions of the law of armed conflicts limiting the right to cause environmental damage. All relevant provisions which were in force in 1994 are compiled in the present Guidelines.

The ICRC took up the matter in a report to the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent which was to be held in Budapest in late 1991 but was called off. Particular conferences on the subject took place in London, Munich and Ottawa in 1991 and 1992. The UN General Assembly, on 9 December 1991, adopted resolution 46/417 requesting the Secretary-General to report to the General Assembly “on activities undertaken in the framework of the International Committee of the Red Cross with regard to that issue”. The ICRC, in 1992, after consultation of experts, submitted a first report to the UN Secretary-General (UN Doc. A/47/328, 1992). In resolution 47/37 of 25 November 1992 (para. 3) the General Assembly urged states “to incorporate the provisions of international law applicable to the protection of the environment into their military manuals and to ensure that they are effectively disseminated”. It invited the ICRC to continue its work. The ICRC, after having again consulted experts, submitted a second report together with a draft of the present guidelines in 1993 (UN Doc. A/48/269, ch. II. 193). The General Assembly, in its resolution 48/30 of 9 December 1993 (paras. 11–14) invited governments to comment on the draft guidelines and asked the ICRC to submit a revised text. After new consultations the ICRC revised the text and submitted it to the Secretary-General. It was annexed to the Secretary-General's report of 19 August 1994 (UN Doc. A/49/323). Without formally approving the guidelines, the General Assembly, in its resolution 49/50 of 9 December 1994, entitled “United Nations Decade of International Law”, adopted the following paragraph:

“The General Assembly

11. Invites all States to disseminate widely the revised guidelines for military
manuals and instructions on the protection of the environment in times of
armed conflict received from the International Committee of the Red

-303-

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