Practice Relating to Rule 8. Definition of Military Objectives
Australia’s Defence Force Manual (1994) states:
525 – Military objectives are those persons and objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage. The objective must be measured by its effect on the whole military operation or campaign and the attack should not be viewed in isolation. Military advantage includes the security of friendly forces.
916 – Civilian property or objectives are defined as anything which are not military objectives. Military objectives are:
c) objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage. In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to civilian purposes is being used to make an effective contribution to military action, it shall be presumed not to be so used.
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states:
5.27 The term “military objective” includes combatant members of the enemy armed forces and their military weapons, vehicles, equipment and installations. It may include other objects that have military value such as bridges, communications towers, electricity and refined oil production facilities. Objects are however, only military objectives if they come within the following definition:
“those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralisation, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.” (Article 52 (2) G. P. I) [1977 Additional Protocol I]
5.28 These criteria require commanders and others planning, deciding on or launching attacks to exercise their discretion. In doing so they must necessarily reach their decisions on the basis of their assessment of the information from all sources which is practicably available to them at the relevant time.
5.29 The taxonomy of defining of military objectives contains a number of elements:
• The second part of the definition limits the first. Both parts must apply before an object can be considered a military objective.
• Nature refers to the type of object, for example, military transports, command and control centres or communications stations.
• Location includes areas which are militarily important because they must be captured or denied to the enemy or because the enemy must be made to retreat from them. An area of land can, thus, be a military objective.
• Purpose means the future intended use of an object while “use” means its present function.
• The words nature, location, purpose or use seem at first sight to allow a wide discretion, but they are subject to the qualifications later in the definition of “effective contribution to military action” and the offering of “a definite military advantage”. There does not have to be geographical proximity between “effective contribution” and “military advantage.” That means that attacks on military supply dumps in the rear or diversionary attacks, away from the area of actual military operations, can be launched.
• Military action means military action generally, not a limited or specific military operation.
• The words in the circumstances ruling at the time are important. If, for example, the enemy moved a divisional headquarters into a disused textile factory, an attack on that headquarters would be permissible (even though the factory might be destroyed in the process) because of the prevailing circumstances. Once the enemy moved their headquarters away, the circumstances would change again and the protection of the factory as a civilian object would be restored.
• Definite means a concrete and perceptible military advantage rather than a hypothetical and speculative one.
• The military advantage
anticipated from an attack refers to the advantage anticipated from the attack considered as a whole and not only from isolated or particular parts of the attack. The advantage need not be immediate.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).