Practice Relating to Rule 146. Reprisals against Protected Persons
Section E. Civilians in general
In 1983, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General in response to Iranian allegations relative to attacks on civilians and civilian objects by Iraq, Iraq recalled its position according to which the bombardment of cities and economic installations had been initiated by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1980. It also questioned the Islamic Republic of Iran’s statement: “Although the Iraqi cities are well within the range of our artillery … Iran has no intention of retaliation against civilians.”
In 1987, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General following a meeting between officials of both parties to the Iran–Iraq War, Iraq stated:
Iraq has long hesitated before responding to the cruel and deliberate bombardments of Iraqi towns contemptuously carried out by the Iranian régime; over a period of several months that régime had on numerous occasions fired missiles on Baghdad and pounded Basra, Sulaymaniyah and other Iraqi towns with its heavy artillery. Iraq had not retaliated for those acts of aggression, choosing instead to issue repeated warnings that had gone unheeded. [These acts had forced] Iraq to deter the aggressor … The following decisions were taken … First: Iraq will halt its bombardment of Iranian towns for two weeks as of … Iraq will consider itself released from this commitment and will resume its bombings forcefully and on greater scale if the forces of the Iranian régime shell Iraqi towns and residential areas and if the Iranian régime launches a new assault against Iraqi territory and Iraq’s international borders. Secondly: This temporary halt in the bombing of towns is contingent upon the position of the Iranian régime with regard to peace; that régime must unequivocally espouse a new position consistent with international law.
On the basis of a reply by Iraq’s Ministry of Defence to a questionnaire, the Report on the Practice of Iraq states that reprisals “must not be directed, in any way, against … civilians … but [have] to be confined to purely military targets”.