Practice Relating to Rule 156. Definition of War Crimes
Spain’s LOAC Manual (1996) contains a list of grave breaches which it considers to be “typified as war crimes”. It also states that “grave breaches are considered war crimes” and then sets out a list of acts considered to be grave breaches.
Spain’s Penal Code (1995), after listing “crimes against protected persons and objects in the event of an armed conflict”, provides that it is an offence
in the event of an armed conflict, to commit or order to commit any other breaches or acts contrary to the provisions of international treaties to which [Spain] is a party, with regard to the conduct of hostilities, the protection of the wounded, sick or shipwrecked, the treatment owed to prisoners of war, [and] the protection of the civilian population and of cultural objects.
Spain’s Penal Code (1995), as amended in 2010, states:
Anyone who, in the event of an armed conflict, … orders the commission of any of the following violations or acts in breach of the international treaties to which Spain is a signatory and relating to the conduct of hostilities, regulation of the means and methods of war, the protection of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, the treatment of prisoners of war, the protection of civilians and the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict, shall be sentenced to six months to two years’ imprisonment.
In 2010, in the Couso case
, which concerned the killing of a Spanish journalist in Baghdad on 8 April 2003 by troops of the United States of America, the Criminal Chamber of Spain’s Supreme Court referred to norms of IHL relevant to the case under review, including Article 147 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV on grave breaches.
The Court also restated Article 85 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I on grave breaches.