Rule 80. Booby-Traps

Rule 80. The use of booby-traps which are in any way attached to or associated with objects or persons entitled to special protection under international humanitarian law or with objects that are likely to attract civilians is prohibited.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
Both treaty practice and other State practice support the premise that booby-traps are prohibited if, by their nature or employment, their use violates the legal protection accorded to a protected person or object by another customary rule of international humanitarian law. This is the reasoning behind the list of booby-traps prohibited in Protocol II and Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.[1]
The list of booby-traps prohibited by Protocol II and Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is found in the military manuals and legislation of some States party to these treaties.[2] Other military manuals are more general in their description and stress that booby-traps associated with objects in normal civilian daily use are prohibited, and that booby-traps must not be used in association with protected persons, protected objects (such as medical supplies, gravesites and cultural or religious property) or internationally recognized protective emblems or signs (such as the red cross and red crescent).[3] Several manuals further specify that booby-traps must not be used in connection with certain objects likely to attract civilians, such as children’s toys.[4] These prohibitions are also to be found in the military manuals and statements of States not, or not at the time, party to Protocol II or Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons.[5]
The premise behind the prohibitions of the use of certain kinds of booby-traps or the use of booby-traps in certain situations during international armed conflicts is equally valid for non-international armed conflicts. Furthermore, during the discussions on the extension of the applicability of Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to non-international armed conflicts, the application of the Protocol’s provisions on booby-traps to such conflicts was uncontested. Although the discussions took place in the context of treaty negotiations, they indicate that States considered it pertinent that civilians and objects protected by the rules of international humanitarian law applicable in non-international armed conflicts should equally be protected against booby-traps that would have the effect of violating those rules.
In addition, the regulation of booby-traps is also contained in military manuals and national legislation applicable in non-international armed conflicts.[6] Colombia’s Constitutional Court has held that the prohibition of certain booby-traps in non-international armed conflicts is part of customary international law.[7]
Booby-traps which are used in a way not prohibited by the current rule are still subject to the general rules on the conduct of hostilities, in particular the principle of distinction (see Rules 1 and 7) and the principle of proportionality (see Rule 14). In addition, the rule that all feasible precautions must be taken to avoid, and in any event to minimize, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects (see Rule 15) must also be respected.
[1] Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Article 6(1) (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 28, § 5); Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, Article 7(1) (ibid., § 5).
[2] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., §§ 30–31), Canada (ibid., § 36), France (ibid., § 41), Germany (ibid., § 42), Israel (ibid., § 44), Kenya (ibid., § 45), Netherlands (ibid., § 46) and New Zealand (ibid., § 47) and the legislation of the Republic of Korea (ibid., § 61).
[3] See, e.g., the military manuals of Cameroon (ibid., § 34), Ecuador (ibid., § 38), Switzerland (ibid., §§ 52–54) and United States (ibid., §§ 56 and 58).
[4] See, e.g., the military manuals of Belgium (ibid., § 32), France (ibid., § 39) and Germany (ibid., § 43).
[5] See the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., § 29), Belgium (ibid., § 32), Cameroon (ibid., § 34), Kenya (ibid., § 45) and United States (ibid., §§ 56–58) and the statement of Egypt (ibid., § 66).
[6] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., § 30), Canada (ibid., § 37), Ecuador (ibid., § 38), Germany (ibid., §§ 42–43), Kenya (ibid., § 45) and South Africa (ibid., § 49) and the legislation of Estonia (ibid., § 59); see also the legislation of Hungary (ibid., § 60), the application of which is not excluded in time of non-international armed conflict.
[7] Colombia, Constitutional Court, Constitutional Case No. C-225/95 (ibid., § 62).