Practice Relating to Rule 15. The Principle of Precautions in Attack
Section D. Information required for deciding upon precautions in attack
South Africa’s LOAC Teaching Manual (2008) states:
Importance of Intelligence ( Regulations to Hague Convention IV Article 29 and  Additional Protocol 1 Articles 57 and 58)
- To enable the military commander to fulfill his mission while causing the minimum collateral damage or suffering to the civilian population and objects, he needs appropriate and up to date information about the enemy and the environment.
- To comply with the LOAC [law of armed conflict], information must include information on:
- The concentration of civilian persons;
- Civilian surroundings of military objectives;
- The nature of built up areas (towns, villages, shelters, etc);
- The existence and nature of important civilian objects, particularly of specifically protected objects such as cultural objects, objects containing dangerous forces, etc; and
- The natural environment.
The manual also states:
Precautions in Attack
- Incidental or Collateral Damage
- … Due regard must be had to the principle of proportionality at all times and all feasible precautions must be taken to gather accurate intelligence and to ensure attacks are directed exclusively against military objectives.
- Collateral damage or injury would be unlawful in any instance in which injury or damage was so excessive, when compared to the military advantage expected to be gained by the attack, as to clearly indicate willful intent or wanton disregard for the safety of the civilian population. However, the honest judgement of responsible commanders, based on the information reasonably available to them at the relevant time and taking into account the urgent and difficult circumstances under which such judgements are usually made.
Ensuring Protection of Specifically Protected Objects
- There is a duty on military commanders to obtain proper and sufficient intelligence regarding the specifically protected objects in his area of operations.
- Military commanders must also ensure that they have sufficient information on specifically protected objects which are important in size or which are particularly endangered through their location.
- The commander must use this information to take all necessary precautions, such as:
- Alternative solutions, eg avoiding the immediate vicinity of an object, using another road for transportations, etc;
- Recommendations with regard to particularly valuable and endangered parts of an object; and
- Recommendations for proper and sufficient marking of objects and its personnel. This can be done by the defender directly to the local authorities or by the attacker to his opponent either directly or, when time allows, through intermediaries.
The manual further states:
Commanders must base their decisions on:
- The given mission;
- Intelligence available;
- Precautions required by the LOAC that are practical, based on the current tactical situation and based on military and humanitarian considerations.
Commanders must take the necessary precautions in attacks to avoid or minimise collateral loss of civilian life or damage to civilian property. This responsibility necessitates the availability of effective intelligence.