Practice Relating to Rule 146. Reprisals against Protected Persons
Section E. Civilians in general
France’s Disciplinary Regulations (1975), as amended, in a provision entitled “Respect for the rules of international law applicable in armed conflicts” dealing with the duties of and prohibitions for combatants, states: “By virtue of the international conventions ratified or approved: … it is prohibited [to soldiers in combat]: … to take hostages, to engage in reprisals or collective punishments”.
France’s LOAC Manual (2001), in the chapter dealing with means and methods of warfare, states: “The law of armed conflict prohibits … the methods of warfare which consist in the recourse: … to reprisals against non-military objectives”.
The manual further refers to Articles 51–56 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I and states: “Reprisals are prohibited against civilians.”
France’s Code of Defence (2004), as amended in 2008, states: “[C]ivilians … are protected persons. … Reprisals against protected persons are prohibited.”
At the CDDH, France voted against Article 46 of draft Additional Protocol I (now Article 51), stating, however, that it considered:
The provisions of paragraphs 4, 5 and 7 were of a type which by their very complexity would seriously hamper the conduct of defensive military operations against an invader and prejudice the exercise of the inherent right of legitimate defence recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations.
The instructions given to the French armed forces for the conduct of Opération Mistral, simulating a military operation under the right of self-defence or a mandate of the UN Security Council, in a part dealing with the “eight fundamental rules of international humanitarian law”, state: “Reprisal attacks against the civilian population are prohibited.”
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, France stated that it would
apply the provisions of [Article 51(8)] to the extent that their interpretation does not hinder, in conformity with international law, the use of such means as it considers indispensable for the protection of its civilian population from grave, manifest and deliberate violations of the Conventions and the Protocol by the enemy.