IRRC No. 902

Restrictions on the use of force at sea: An environmental protection perspective

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The restrictions on the use of force at sea exist in different branches of international law: the law of the sea and environmental law, mainly applicable during peacetime, and international humanitarian law (IHL), as the law applicable in times of armed conflict. Different rules from these areas must be compared and analyzed to determine the common principles applicable to restricting the use of force at sea for the purposes of environmental protection. Taking into account the particular problems of protecting the marine environment in the context of the use of force, the law of the sea and international environmental law should be applied to restrict means and methods of using force at sea during armed conflict. The detailed concepts and approaches in the law of the sea and environmental law may complement IHL, and the precautionary principle of international environmental law should be triggered to address the lacunae in IHL protecting the marine environmental during armed conflict.

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