Practice Relating to Rule 14. Proportionality in Attack
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book I (Basic instruction):
II.2 Principles of the Law of War
The Law of War is based on three fundamental principles:
- The principle of distinction;
- The principle of limitation;
- The principle of proportionality.
The principle of proportionality
demands the fulfilment of one’s mission without causing unnecessary damage. It entails the adaptation of the means of combat to the military result anticipated. Recourse to excessive force is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.
In Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers), the Teaching Manual provides:
II. The fundamental principles of IHL
Just as military operations are based on principles concerning attack, defence, withdrawal, etc., the law of armed conflicts contains a set of well-defined principles. These concrete principles reflect the realities of conflicts. They represent a balance between the principle of humanity and military necessity, and they are valid at all times, in all places, and in all circumstances. It is essential that these rules are known by all combatants. They must permanently be taken into consideration in every activity of assessment, planning, and military training or operation. The following principles can be found throughout the texts of the law of armed conflicts.
When military objectives are attacked, civilians and civilian objects must to the greatest extent practicable be protected against any incidental or collateral damage. Incidental damage caused must not be excessive in relation to the operation’s direct and concrete military advantage anticipated. Excessive recourse to force constitutes a flagrant violation of the law of armed conflicts.
Here we are addressing fundamental military demands, especially for commanders. Avoiding an infringement of this principle requires constant reflection and effort. Deficiencies in the area of preparation, intelligence or command can easily lead to the destruction of a town or village with its hospitals, religious buildings and its civilian population.
In Book IV (Instruction of heads of division and company commanders), the Teaching Manual provides:
The fact that an attack launched against a legitimate objective can cause losses among civilians or damage to civilian objects does not necessarily render the attack illegitimate in the sense of the LOAC. However, these collateral damages must not be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated at the moment of the attack.
Côte d’Ivoire’s Penal Code (1981), as amended in 2015, states:
Whoever commits a war crime is punished with life imprisonment.
War crimes are:
2 - other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:
- intentionally launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects … which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct overall military advantage anticipated[.]