Practice Relating to Rule 6. Civilians’ Loss of Protection from Attack
France’s LOAC Summary Note (2000) states: “Civilians may not be attacked, unless they participate directly in hostilities.”
France’s Code of Defence (2004), as amended in 2008, states:
[C]ivilians … are protected persons …
Protected persons are protected as long as they abstain from taking a direct part in hostilities.
It is prohibited for combatants to deliberately target protected persons.
In 2006, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child under the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, France stated:
The concept of direct or active participation in hostilities is not the subject of a detailed definition, whether in treaty law or in French domestic law. Thus the concept is only mentioned in article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. In French law, it is referred to in the Criminal Code, part VI, article 436-1, under which participation in mercenary activity is illegal. Nevertheless, this legal concept is not subject to particular debate. As part of work by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the T.M.C. Asser law institute in the Netherlands, French experts are actively involved in the international process of drafting guiding principles in this field. Two seminars were organized in 2004 and 2005, and the work of this group is expected to continue in 2006.
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, France stated:
The rule set out in the second sentence of the first paragraph of Article 50 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol I] cannot be interpreted as requiring a commander to take a decision which, according to the circumstances and information available to him, might not be compatible with his duty to ensure the safety of the troops under his command or to preserve his military situation, in conformity with other provisions of [the 1977 Additional Protocol I].