Practice Relating to Rule 147. Reprisals against Protected Objects
Section A. Civilian objects in general
Australia’s Commanders’ Guide (1994), referring, inter alia
, to Articles 51–56 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, states: “Protected persons, such as … civilians … as well as protected buildings and facilities should not be the subject of reprisals.”
Australia’s Defence Force Manual (1994) provides: “Reprisals are prohibited against … civilian objects.”
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states: “Reprisals are prohibited against … civilian objects”.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
During the Second Reading Speech of the Geneva Conventions Amendment Bill 1990, the purpose of which was to amend the Geneva Conventions Act 1957 so as to enable Australia to ratify the 1977 Additional Protocol I, Australia’s Attorney-General stated:
He [the shadow Attorney-General] called in particular for a reservation on the prohibition on reprisals contained in the protocol. A reservation on reprisals would not be accepted by some countries. A reservation would operate reciprocally between Australia and a future enemy also party to the protocol. If we did that, it would reduce the level of protection afforded by the protocol to Australian civilians and civilian objects.
None of the 99 countries which have become party to the protocol have seen the need to make such a reservation – not one of them. The prohibition on reprisals in the protocol is not a total prohibition. Reprisals are prohibited against civilians, cultural objects and places of worship, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, the environment, dams, dykes and nuclear electrical generating stations containing dangerous forces. The prohibition on reprisals represents an important development in protection of civilians against the horrors of modern warfare.
In 1991, in briefing notes prepared for a debate on the Geneva Convention Amendment Bill in Australia’s House of Representatives, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade expressed the view that:
The extension in [the 1977 Additional Protocol I of the prohibition of reprisals] is to civilian, cultural and other non-military objects. It was felt that an Australian reservation on this point, while leaving the way open for us to use such reprisals, would not only allow Australia to be portrayed as barbaric but also leave such Australian objects open to attack in enemy reprisals, in return for very little military advantage. This is now a settled Australian Defence Force view.
The Report on the Practice of Australia expressly names open towns, undefended areas, demilitarized zones and humanitarian corridors among the protected objects against which reprisals are prohibited.