Practice Relating to Rule 50. Destruction and Seizure of Property of an Adversary
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands considers that “extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly” is a grave breach of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
The manual adds that “the damaging of a civilian object without necessity” is an “ordinary breach” of the law of war.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands forbids “the unjustified destruction or seizure of enemy property”.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
It is expressly prohibited to carry out the following acts against the civilian population or individual civilians, wounded, sick or prisoners:
- destruction or seizure of property of the adversary, unless urgently necessary due to compelling circumstances of war
- threatening anyone with the above-mentioned acts or treatment.
The Definition of War Crimes Decree (1946) of the Netherlands includes “confiscation of property” and “wanton devastation and destruction of property” in its list of war crimes.
Under the International Crimes Act (2003) of the Netherlands, it is a crime to commit “in the case of an international armed conflict, one of the grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions”, including “extensive intentional and unlawful destruction and appropriation of goods without military necessity”.
Furthermore, “destroying or seizing property of the adversary unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of the conflict” is a crime, whether committed in an international or a non-international armed conflict.
In its judgment in the Wingten case
in 1949, the Special Court of Cassation of the Netherlands found the accused, a member of the German security forces in occupied Netherlands, guilty of the war crime of “devastation not justified by military necessity” as contained in Article 6(b) of the 1945 IMT Charter, for the arson of several houses near Amsterdam.
Charges [brought against Gatanazi]: