Practice Relating to Rule 37. Open Towns and Non-Defended Localities
Section C. Attacks on open towns and non-defended localities
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers):
IV.2. Protected zones
The law of armed conflicts makes provision for various protected zones or localities. … Attacks against these zones or localities are prohibited.
IV.6. Non-defended localities
They are places deliberately left without defence, in order to protect the civilian population and its goods against any attack or damage. … These localities are sometimes also called open towns.
In Book III, Volume 2 (Instruction of second-year trainee officers), the Teaching Manual provides:
In order to protect the civilian population as a whole or particularly vulnerable persons … it is possible, by common agreement between the parties, to establish safety zones
, both during the conflict (for example in the form of an “open town”), or “demilitarized zones” in time of peace. Such zones must not be attacked militarily. On the other hand, they must also no longer be defended against the advancing of the enemy.
[emphasis in original]
In Book IV (Instruction of heads of division and company commanders), the Teaching Manual provides:
II.3.3. Non-defended localities
It is prohibited for the Parties to the conflict to attack, by any means whatsoever, non-defended localities. …
A Party to the conflict may declare as a non-defended locality any inhabited place in or near a zone where armed forces are in contact. The non-defended locality is therefore open for occupation by the adverse Party. …
Any area loses its status as non-defended locality if it ceases to respect the conditions described above or agreed between the adverse Parties regarding the establishment of non-defended localities.
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:
- attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives[.]