Practice Relating to Rule 129. The Act of Displacement
Section A. Forced displacement
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states: “Individual or mass forcible transfers and deportations are forbidden.”
The manual considers that “the deportation or transfer of all or parts of the population of the occupied territory” by the occupying power is a grave breach of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
With respect to non-international armed conflicts in particular, the manual states: “Forced displacement of civilians is forbidden … Civilians shall not be compelled to leave their own territory for reasons connected with the conflict.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states that “kidnapping and deportation are forbidden”.
In its chapter on the protection of the civilian population, the manual states: “Forced transfer and deportation of groups of people or individuals are prohibited.”
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
In principle, forced displacement of civilians (the civilian population) is prohibited. It is permitted only if the safety of the affected civilians or compelling military reasons dictate. Civilians may not be forced to leave their locality for reasons relating to internal armed conflict.
The Definition of War Crimes Decree (1946) of the Netherlands includes “deportation of civilians” in its list of war crimes.
Under the International Crimes Act (2003) of the Netherlands, “unlawful deportation or transfer” and “the deportation or transfer of all or part of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory” are crimes, when committed in an international armed conflict.
Under the Act, “giving instructions for the transfer of the civilian population for reasons connected with the conflict, other than on account of the safety of the citizens or where imperatively demanded by the circumstances of the conflict” constitutes a crime in non-international armed conflict.
In its judgment in the Zimmerman case
in 1949, the Special Court of Cassation of the Netherlands held that the deportation of civilians of occupied territories was a war crime and rejected the accused’s defence of superior orders as “the condemnation of these practices by public opinion must be deemed of general knowledge, and the accused must be deemed to have known they were illegal”.
In 1992, in a statement before the Commission of Foreign Affairs of the Lower House of Parliament concerning the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands stated:
Serbia refuses to recognise the independence and territorial integrity of the Bosnian State and carries out a pure policy of conquest, combined with the deportation of populations. The international community should strongly condemn this policy.
In 1995, in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament, the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands stated: “The forced evacuation of the local population of Srebrenica, and now also Žepa, must be strongly condemned.”
In 1996, in a note to the Lower House of Parliament concerning the refugee problem in Africa, the Minister for Development Cooperation of the Netherlands stated: “With respect to refugees and displaced persons, the Netherlands pays as much attention as possible, to prevent, in a comprehensive fashion, that people are displaced and have to flee.”