Ecocide and genocide in Iraq : international law, the Marsh Arabs, and environmental damage in non-international conflicts
Host item entries:
Colorado journal of international environmental law and policy, Vol. 15, issue 1, 2004, p. 1-28
In 1991, in retaliation of the rebellion by the Marsh Arabs, the Iraqi government embarked on a massive water diversion project to drain the wetlands. The Marsh Arabs were forced to flee; many died. At the time, Iraq was a party to several international agreements that made its acts illegal. The Genocide Convention most clearly prohibits acts such as those committed by the Iraqi government against the Marsh Arabs. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions addresses individual murders and extrajudicial killings of Marsh Arabs, but probably does not address the problem of the destruction of the wetlands as a whole. The Covenants on Economic and Cultural Rights and Civil and Political Rights provide similar protections, and provide that a people may not be deprived of its means of subsistence, as the Marsh Arabs have been. Treaties to which Iraq is not a party address the specific problem of environmental modification used in war or as an instrument of persecution of an ethnic group. Protocols I and II to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are probably expressions of customary international law, and may even express jus cogens or non-derogable norms. Of these, Protocol I addresses environmental harm far more directly. Under Protocol I, the Iraqi government's action against the southern Mesopotamian wetlands was illegal because its effects were widespread, long-lasting, and severe, and because it was a prohibited reprisal against the natural environment.