Rule 33. Directing an attack against personnel and objects involved in a peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians and civilian objects under international humanitarian law, is prohibited.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
State practice treats peacekeeping forces, which are usually professional soldiers, as civilians because they are not members of a party to the conflict and are deemed to be entitled to the same protection against attack as that accorded to civilians, as long as they are not taking a direct part in hostilities (see Rules 1 and 6). As civilians, peacekeeping forces are entitled to the fundamental guarantees set out in Chapter 32. By the same token, objects involved in a peacekeeping operation are considered to be civilian objects, protected against attack (see Rule 7).
Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, intentionally directing attacks against personnel and objects involved in a peacekeeping mission in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations constitutes a war crime in both international and non-international armed conflicts, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians and civilian objects under international humanitarian law.
The Statute of the Special Court for Sierra Leone also includes the rule.
The rule is contained in some military manuals.
Under the legislation of many States, it is an offence to attack personnel and objects involved in a peacekeeping mission.
No official contrary practice was found. Attacks against peacekeeping personnel and objects have generally been condemned by States.
They have also been condemned by the United Nations and other international organisations.
Some of these condemnations refer to the attacks as criminal.
In addition to direct attacks, the United Nations has condemned other acts perpetrated against peacekeeping personnel which do not amount to attacks as such, including harassment, abuse, intimidation, violence, detention and maltreatment, and has called upon the parties to conflicts to ensure their safety, security and freedom of movement.
In the Karadžić and Mladić case
before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, the accused have been charged for their role in the “taking of civilians, that is UN peacekeepers, as hostages”.
This rule applies only to peacekeeping forces, whether established by the United Nations or by a regional organisation, as long as they are entitled to the protection given to civilians and, as a result, excludes forces engaged in peace-enforcement operations who are considered as combatants bound to respect international humanitarian law.