Rule 50. The destruction or seizure of the property of an adversary is prohibited, unless required by imperative military necessity.
Volume II, Chapter 16, Section B.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
This is a long-standing rule of customary international law already recognized in the Lieber Code and the Brussels Declaration and codified in the Hague Regulations.
The violation of this rule through “extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly,” is a grave breach under the Geneva Conventions.
Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “destroying or seizing the enemy’s property unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war” constitutes a war crime in international armed conflicts.
With respect to the requirement that the destruction be extensive for it to constitute a grave breach, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia stated in the Blaškić case
that “the notion of ‘extensive’ is evaluated according to the facts of the case – a single act, such as the destruction of a hospital, may suffice to characterize an offence under this count”.
The rule is contained in numerous military manuals.
It is an offence under the legislation of many States to destroy or seize the property of an adversary unless it is required by imperative military necessity.
The rule was applied in several cases after the Second World War.
Several indictments before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia are based on this rule, and in the Blaškić case
and Kordić and Čerkez case
, the accused were found guilty of its violation.
Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, “destroying or seizing the property of an adversary unless such destruction or seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of the conflict” constitutes a war crime in non-international armed conflicts.
This rule is included in military manuals which are applicable in or have been applied in non-international armed conflicts.
Its violation is an offence under the legislation of many States in any armed conflict.
No official contrary practice was found with respect to either international or non-international armed conflicts.