Individual Property and Unlawful Destruction

Responding to Lea Brilmayer & Geoffrey Chepiga, Ownership or Use? Civilian Property Interests in International Humanitarian Law, 49 Harv. Int’l L.J. 413 (2008)*

Civilians have historically found it difficult to recover damages for property destroyed during armed conflict, but new legal bodies are now making compensation for such loss more feasible. In their article Ownership or Use? Civilian Property Interests in International Humanitarian Law, Lea Brilmayer and Geoffrey Chepiga argue that the international community must “plan for a future” that allows for monetary awards to civilian victims of property destruction. They contend that international humanitarian law (IHL) should determine the worth of property differently during times of war than during times of peace, and they propose that civilians should receive compensation for destroyed property based on its civilian use rather than its market value. The authors do not fully address, however, the realities of war’s destruction and the suffering it causes. Their model should be expanded to encompass individual as well as communal civilian property and to apply the compensation formula to all unlawful damage, not just deliberate destruction.

* This excerpt does not include citations. To read the entire article, including supporting notes, please download the PDF.