Practice Relating to Rule 145. Reprisals
Section A. Definition and purpose of reprisals
Spain’s LOAC Manual (1996) defines a reprisal as “a violation of the law of war, committed in response to the violation of the said law committed by the enemy”. Among the conditions which must be fulfilled for the lawful taking of reprisals, the manual states: “The action of the enemy must constitute a grave, manifest and deliberate violation of the law of war.” It further emphasizes that reprisals are only permitted if authorization is given by the international conventions.
In another chapter, the manual states: “The fear of reprisals can influence belligerent parties and induce them to respect the International Conventions. Reprisals are authorized only in case of a violation of the law of war.”
Spain’s LOAC Manual (2007) states: “Reprisals are in violation of the law of armed conflict when used in response to an enemy violation of this body of law … [They] can only be used in truly exceptional cases.”
The manual also states:
A State can, exceptionally, take measures against another State that commits an internationally unlawful act against it, with a view to pressuring it to comply with its international obligations. …
Fear of reprisals can influence the parties to the conflict to respect international conventions.
The manual also states: “Reprisals … to make the enemy comply with the law of armed conflict … must focus solely on this ultimate goal. Some reprisals are specifically prohibited, such as those directed against protected persons.”
The manual further states: “Abstain from all acts of vengeance.”
Under Spain’s Penal Code (1995) “anyone who … carries out or orders … reprisals or violent acts or threats in order to terrify [the civilian population]” is punishable.