Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Laws




Sara Seck


As concerns about the environment increase and civilians continue to become casualties of armed conflict, we must reflect on traditional approaches and applications of International Humanitarian law [IHL]. While the current state of IHL provides protections for civilians and the environment, examples in practice of excessive harms to both suggest a gap exists in these protections. Current academic literature in the field tends to focus on either the protection of civilians or the protection of the environment, on either IHL or International Environmental law [IEL]. This is problematic as the two are inextricably linked: civilians and environment often, if not always, go hand in hand. This thesis seeks to close these gaps. It begins with an examination of existing IHL and a look at two instances which resulted in excessive harms to civilians and the environment. Next, it turns to the role of general principles of international law, in particular the precautionary principle and the principle of intergenerational equity in IEL, which are well-accustomed to dealing with short-term and long-term health and environmental risks, as well as scientific uncertainty. The thesis demonstrates how the use of these principles in military decision-making could fill the existing gaps in IHL.