Practice Relating to Rule 37. Open Towns and Non-Defended Localities
Section B. Establishment of non-defended localities
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers):
IV.2. Protected zones
The law of armed conflicts makes provision for various protected zones or localities. It is important to know the raison d’être of these zones. These zones can have different names, but they always have two elements in common:
- to protect civilian and military victims against the effects of hostilities;
- to keep these victims separate, guaranteeing that there are no military objectives in the defined zones.
Thus, if the enemy respects the law, the victims run no risk of suffering from the effects of the hostilities. Attacks against these zones or localities are prohibited.
IV.6. Non-defended localities
They are places deliberately left without defence, in order to protect the civilian population and its goods against any attack or damage. These places are created by a unilateral declaration communicated to the adverse party. They can also be made the object of distinct agreements concluded between the two parties. These agreements must define, as precisely as possible, the limits of the non-defended locality, which is open to occupation and into which the armed forces of the enemy can enter, and of which they can take possession. Non-defended localities can be created near or in the combat zone. Combatants as well as mobile weapons and mobile military equipment must be evacuated from them. These localities must not be used in support of military operations; firing positions or missile sites must in no case be used for offensive purposes. The party which is in control of the locality must strive to mark its limits by signs displayed on its perimeter or on the main access roads. These localities are sometimes also called open towns.
In Book III, Volume 2 (Instruction of second-year trainee officers), the Teaching Manual provides:
In order to protect the civilian population as a whole or particularly vulnerable persons (the sick, wounded, infirm, elderly, children, etc.), it is possible, by common agreement between the parties, to establish safety zones
, both during the conflict (for example in the form of an “open town”), or “demilitarized zones” in time of peace. Such zones must not be attacked militarily. On the other hand, they must also no longer be defended against the advancing of the enemy. Their only objective is to ensure the physical survival of the population which is sheltered there.
[emphasis in original]
In Book IV (Instruction of heads of division and company commanders), the Teaching Manual provides:
II.3.3. Non-defended localities
A Party to the conflict may declare as a non-defended locality any inhabited place in or near a zone where armed forces are in contact. The non-defended locality is therefore open for occupation by the adverse Party. …
A non-defended locality must normally fulfil the following conditions:
- all combatants, as well as mobile weapons and mobile military equipment must have been evacuated;
- no hostile use shall be made of fixed military installations or establishments;
- no acts of hostility shall be committed by the authorities or by the population;
- no activities in support of military operations shall be undertaken.
However, the Parties to the conflict may agree on the establishment of non-defended localities even if these conditions are not respected. …
The Party which is in control of a non-defended locality shall mark it, so far as possible, by such signs as may be agreed upon with the other Party. These signs shall be displayed where they are clearly visible, especially on its perimeter and on roads. …
Any area loses its status as a non-defended locality if it ceases to respect the conditions described above or agreed between the adverse Parties regarding the establishment of non-defended localities.