Islamic Republic of Iran
Practice Relating to Rule 146. Reprisals against Protected Persons
Section E. Civilians in general
In 1983, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, the Islamic Republic of Iran deplored the fact that Iraqi television had announced “a statement by the Iraqi minister of culture and information to the effect that Iraq will bombard Iranian cities in retaliation to Iranian shelling of Iraqi cities”.
In 1987, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, the Islamic Republic of Iran stated:
Because of the polite acquiescence of the relevant international bodies with regard to Iraqi acts of lawlessness … Iran has had to take symbolic retaliatory and preventive measures in response to the Iraqi bombardment of civilian areas. Such measures have been adopted with great reluctance and self-restraint. However, should the Iraqi régime persist in its war crimes … the armed forces of … Iran will be obliged to inflict unprecedented heavy and deadly blows in retaliation. Clearly, the responsibility for the consequences of such retaliatory and preventive measures lies with the aggressor régime of Iraq.
In 1987, after an Iraqi Command had stated that the Iraqi forces were ready for reprisal attacks, the Islamic Republic of Iran stated in a letter to the UN Secretary-General:
While the high-ranking Iraqi officials have openly declared their criminal policies of attacking our civilian areas, the Islamic Republic of Iran adheres to strict observance of all norms of international humanitarian law and continues to remain committed to refraining from attacks on purely civilian quarter … Iran has been forced to resort to retaliatory measures against its desire … The number of civilian casualties on both sides is a testament to the degree of self-restraint exercised by … Iran in taking retaliatory measures … We have been consistently asking the international body to take serious action against those attacking civilians.
In 1987, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs stated:
The reluctant but unavoidable retaliatory fire of our Islamic combatants were directed against economic and industrial quarters of Iraq and with ample prior warning to the civilian occupants of the adjacent areas to leave the scene of our intended attacks. The comparatively very low number of civilian casualties in Iraq is testimony to the humanitarian consideration of … Iran even in its retaliatory exercises. Nevertheless … Iran, based on its position of principle which is in compliance with the universally recognized norms of international law believes in the necessity for strict observance of the rules of law governing the conduct of hostilities.
In 1987, in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, the Islamic Republic of Iran stated with respect to Iraqi warplanes allegedly bombarding villages inhabited by civilians in June 1987:
The Government of … Iran, faced with an enemy who so easily and frequently resorts to illegal tactics, has in the past found it necessary to take, however reluctantly, limited retaliatory measures as the only method of compelling the rulers of Baghdad to respect their international obligations. Should the régime of Baghdad continue its attacks against civilian centres of … Iran, the Iranian Government will once again be left with no option other than retaliation in kind.
According to the Report on the Practice of the Islamic Republic of Iran, during the Iran–Iraq War, the Islamic Republic of Iran did not resort to reprisals against Iraqi cities until Iraqi bombardments of an Iranian city in 1982. The report refers to military communiqués and a message from the commander of the Joint Staff, which stated that the Islamic Republic of Iran did not consider attacking the cities as being “in conformity with the notion of real war”, but after three and a half years of Iraqi attacks on civilian objects and cities, the Islamic Republic of Iran had no option but to resort to reprisals against these attacks. The report also notes that in resorting to reprisals, the Islamic Republic of Iran had always issued statements and asked the Iraqi people to evacuate their city. Furthermore, the report states that the real reason for the Islamic Republic of Iran’s attacks on Iraqi cities was Iraq’s attacks on civilian centres and that, when Iraqi attacks on civilian targets ceased, the Islamic Republic of Iran stopped its reprisals.
The report notes that, in February 1984, the Islamic Republic of Iran announced that it had changed its policy and that Iraqi cities would be attacked as a reprisal measure and that only four holy cities were left immune from such action. Virtually all official communiqués reporting the results of these military operations named military and economic objectives, not civilian objects.