Practice Relating to Rule 97. Human Shields
Canada’s Code of Conduct (2001) provides that prisoners of war or detainees “will not be used as ‘human shields’ to protect military objectives or cover military operations”.
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter on land warfare: “The use of protected persons such as civilians or PWs [prisoners of war] to render legitimate targets immune from attack is prohibited.”
In its chapter on rights and duties of occupying powers, the manual further states: “It is forbidden to use the presence of protected persons to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.”
Canada’s Code of Conduct (2005) states that prisoners of war or detainees “will not be used as ‘human shields’ to protect military objectives or cover military operations”.
Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act (2000) provides that the war crimes defined in Article 8(2) of the 1998 ICC Statute are “crimes according to customary international law” and, as such, indictable offences under the Act.
In 2008, in the Ribic case, Canada’s Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed an appeal of a Canadian national who had been convicted of hostage-taking. Justice Cronk, who gave the leading judgment, summarized the facts of the case as follows:
 In 1995, Bosnia was in the throes of a bitter and prolonged civil war between Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Muslims. The war had a complicated and violent history. Throughout, a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping force, assisted by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), was deployed in Bosnia.
 The appellant, Nicholas Nikola Ribic, is a Canadian citizen of Yugoslavian origin. At some point around 1995, he travelled to Bosnia and became involved with the Serbian war effort. On May 26, 1995, Ribic and several companions took three unarmed UN military observers hostage at gunpoint in the Bosnian town of Pale and used them as human shields by shackling them to Serbian ammunition bunkers that were the target of an ongoing NATO air strike. During the initial hostage-taking, Ribic repeatedly threatened to kill the hostages if the NATO bombing did not stop. The hostages were detained for almost three and a half weeks, until their negotiated release on June 18, 1995. …
 On February 17, 1999, Ribic was charged with four counts of hostage-taking in relation to two of the UN observers – one of whom is a Canadian citizen – under s. 279.1 of the Criminal Code of Canada, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-46 (the Code). … Canada’s jurisdiction over the hostage-taking, assumed under s. 7(3.1) of the Code, was conceded by the defence.
 Ribic’s first trial began in October 2002. It ended on January 20, 2003 with the declaration of a mistrial. On June 12, 2005, following a second trial before a judge and jury, Ribic was convicted of two counts of hostage-taking and, on September 14, 2005, was sentenced to three years imprisonment.
 Ribic appeals his convictions. … I would dismiss the appeal.
The Court held:
[T]here was no evidence at trial capable of leaving the jury with a reasonable doubt that using unarmed peacekeeping observers as human shields in the hope of averting or stopping an air strike was a reasonable response to NATO’s action. On the evidence, all that was required to avoid the bombings, in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 836, was the return of the heavy weapons that had been removed by the Serbian army from the UN weapons collection areas by the designated deadline and the honouring of the safe zones. That the Serbian forces elected to reject this option did not render the use of human shields a justified and reasonable response to the NATO bombing.
In 2013, in the Peters case, Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Board rejected an immigration request on grounds of complicity in crimes against humanity in Libya. The Board stated:
[W]hen the conflict began in February 2011 in Libya you were called upon [by Al-Saadi Gaddafi] to provide … security services for him in Libya. …
Now, with respect to specific examples of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Gaddafi regime, there is quite extensive documentary evidence that has been put forward by the Minister, so I’m going to mainly focus on the atrocities committed between February and August 2011, …
… Reports are that in August of 2011 in Zliten … Gaddafi forces used human shields …
In 2013, in the Sapkota case
, Canada’s Federal Court dismissed a request for review of a decision denying refugee protection to the applicant on grounds of complicity in crimes against humanity in Nepal between 1991 and 2009. While reviewing the submissions of the respondent, Canada’s Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Court stated: “The Respondent notes that the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court
… is endorsed in Canada as a source of customary law.”