Related Rule
France
Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
France’s LOAC Summary Note (2001) states: “The civilian population and civilian objects must be spared and distinguished at all times from combatants and military objectives.” 
France, Fiche de Synthèse sur les Règles Applicables dans les Conflits Armés, Note No. 432/DEF/EMA/OL.2/NP, Général de Corps d’Armée Voinot (pour l’Amiral Lanxade, Chef d’Etat-major des Armées), 1992, Part I, preamble; see also Fiche didactique relative au droit des conflits armés, Directive of the Ministry of Defence, 4 January 2000, annexed to the Directive No. 147 of the Ministry of Defence of 4 January 2000, p. 4.
France’s LOAC Manual (2001) imposes the obligation “to distinguish between military objectives, which may be attacked, and civilian objects and persons, which must not be made the object of deliberate attack”. 
France, Manuel de droit des conflits armés, Ministère de la Défense, Direction des Affaires Juridiques, Sous-Direction du droit international humanitaire et du droit européen, Bureau du droit des conflits armés, 2001, p. 13.
The instructions given to the French armed forces for the conduct of Opération Mistral, simulating a military operation under the right of self-defence or a mandate of the UN Security Council, state: “All parties must at all times make a distinction between the civilian population and military objectives in order to spare the civilian population.” 
France, Etat-major de la Force d’Action Rapide, Ordres pour l’Opération Mistral, 1995, Section 6, § 66.
In 2008, the Minister of Defence of France stated:
[France] is a party to the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which defines the major fundamental principles of protection of the civilian population against the effects of hostilities, in particular … the principle of discrimination … France considers this document to be a fundamental pillar of international humanitarian law and wishes it to become universal as soon as possible, in order to allow for the requirements of humanity during armed conflicts to be better respected. 
France, Response from the Minister of Defence to parliamentary written question No. 20626, Journal officiel de la République française, 6 May 2008, p. 3812.
In 2009, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France stated:
[O]ne of the essential principles of international humanitarian law is that a distinction must be made at all times and in all circumstances between combatants and non-combatants … There are few conflicts in which that principle is fully respected. 
France, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, “The Savaging of Humanitarian Law”, New York Times, 28 January 2009, p. 1.
In 2009, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France stated:
Violations of humanitarian law are ever increasing, as the current crises are unfortunately there to remind us, whether we are looking at Darfur, Somalia, Gaza, Sri Lanka or the Kivus. … The means and methods of warfare know no limitation or restraint, [such as] distinction of targets …
We must react! 
France, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, “International Humanitarian Law, an Imperative”, La Croix, 12 February 2009, p. 1.
In 2009, the President of France stated:
We cannot resign ourselves to the suffering of millions of women and men who are victims of wars …
All parties to a conflict, and in the first place States, shall strictly respect their commitment to apply the provisions of international humanitarian law. One of its main principles is the distinction between civilian and military objectives: and yet, it is the civilian population who pays, by far, the highest price in armed conflicts. This is a scandal, this is unacceptable. 
France, Address by the President of the French Republic on the 90th Anniversary of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 4 May 2009, p. 2.
While the core challenges in the protection of civilians identified in the previous reports of the Secretary-General still need our sustained attention, the new report also identifies several protection policy priorities that need to be explored. In particular the following “emerging” issues would benefit from our attention, and the Group of Friends stands ready to act as a platform to advance them. …
… [O]n the issue of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), the Group is of the view that further discussions are needed and it welcomes the fact that the issue will be examined in Geneva in May 2014, in the framework of the CCW [Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons]. The Group hopes that such discussions will also examine the issue with due consideration to the protection of civilians as part of a comprehensive debate including legal, military operational, technological and ethical perspectives. In time discussion should focus on the relevance of such systems to the protection of civilians, in particular in the context of IHL and with regard to the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality. 
France, Statement by the permanent representative of Switzerland during a UN Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict made on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, namely Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Norway, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay, 12 February 2014, p. 2.
France’s LOAC Summary Note (1992) states that combatants are military objectives. 
France, Fiche de Synthèse sur les Règles Applicables dans les Conflits Armés, Note No. 432/DEF/EMA/OL.2/NP, Général de Corps d’Armée Voinot (pour l’Amiral Lanxade, Chef d’Etat-major des Armées), 1992, § 1.2.
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, France stated:
The Government of the French Republic considers that the first sentence of paragraph 2 of Article 52 does not deal with the question of collateral damage resulting from attacks directed against military objectives. 
France, Declarations and reservations made upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, 11 April 2001, § 12.
France’s LOAC Summary Note (1992) states: “Civilians may not be attacked.” 
France, Fiche de Synthèse sur les Règles Applicables dans les Conflits Armés, Note No. 432/DEF/EMA/OL.2/NP, Général de Corps d’Armée Voinot (pour l’Amiral Lanxade, Chef d’Etat-major des Armées), 1992, § 1.3; see also Fiche didactique relative au droit des conflits armés, Directive of the Ministry of Defence, 4 January 2000, annexed to the Directive No. 147 of the Ministry of Defence of 4 January 2000, p. 4.
The manual further considers that “attacks against the civilian population or against individual civilians” constitute grave breaches and thus war crimes. 
France, Fiche de Synthèse sur les Règles Applicables dans les Conflits Armés, Note No. 432/DEF/EMA/OL.2/NP, Général de Corps d’Armée Voinot (pour l’Amiral Lanxade, Chef d’Etat-major des Armées), 1992, § 3.4.
France’s Code of Defence (2004), as amended in 2008, states that “civilians … are protected persons … It is prohibited for combatants to deliberately target protected persons.” 
France, Code of Defence, 2004, as amended in 2008, Article D4122-8.
France’s Penal Code (1992), as amended in 2010, states in its section on war crimes common to both international and non-international armed conflicts: “Intentionally launching attacks against the civilian population as such, or against individual civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities, is punishable by life imprisonment.” 
France, Penal Code, 1992, as amended in 2010, Article 461-9.
In 1983, in reply to a question in parliament, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs declared that the bombardment of civilian populations in Afghanistan was “just one of the cruel aspects of the war”. 
France, Reply by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to a question in parliament regarding Afghanistan, 25 July 1983, Politique étrangère de la France, July 1983, p. 72.
In 1989, in reply to a question in parliament, the French Prime Minister stated that the civilian population had been the target of repeated bombardment and made a solemn appeal to Syria, General Aoun and Doctor Hoss to “stop the deliberate bombardment of the civilian population”. 
France, Reply by Prime Minister Michel Rocard to a question in parliament, 19 April 1989, Politique étrangère de la France, April 1989, p. 72.
In a communiqué regarding Rwanda issued in 1994, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned “the bombardments against civilian populations who have fled to Goma in Zaire … These attacks on the security of populations are unacceptable.” 
France, Communiqué of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding Rwanda, 17 July 1994, Politique étrangère de la France, July 1994, p. 101.
The instructions given to the French armed forces for the conduct of Opération Mistral, simulating a military operation under the right of self-defence or a mandate of the UN Security Council, state: “Neither the civilian population as such nor individual civilians … shall be made the object of attack.” 
France, Etat-major de la Force d’Action Rapide, Ordres pour l’Opération Mistral, 1995, Section 6, § 66.
In a communiqué issued in 1995, the French Minister of Foreign Affairs expressed his distress at “the bombardment of the centre of Sarajevo, which once again had caused numerous casualties among the civilian population of the Bosnian capital”. He further stated: “This barbarous act calls for the most severe condemnation.” 
France, Communiqué by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hervé de Charette, 28 August 1995, Politique étrangère de la France, August 1995, p. 169.
In 1999, in reply to a question in parliament, a French Minister stated:
We are all under the shock of the immense emotion caused by the massacre of 45 civilians in Racak, on 16 January, by the Serbian police. These atrocities have been unanimously condemned by the international community. France has expressed its revolt and distaste, the Prime Minister has denounced this “barbarous act”. 
France, Reply by Pierre Moscovici, Ministre Délegué for European Affairs, to a question in parliament, 19 January 1999, Politique étrangère de la France, January 1999, p. 82.
In 2009, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France stated:
“Modern” war disgusts us in the tragic consequences it has for civilians …
How could we not be horrified at the sight of bodies, atrociously maimed or burned; the bodies of women, men and children lying in the smoking ruins of their homes …
… [O]ne of the essential principles of international humanitarian law is that a distinction must be made at all times and in all circumstances between combatants and non-combatants … There are few conflicts in which that principle is fully respected.
In the face of situations in which civilians are deliberately targeted, the maintenance and the restoration of peace are constant challenges.
France is engaged in numerous peacekeeping operations under UN mandates. The purpose of several of them – first and foremost the European Union operation in eastern Chad and north-eastern Central African Republic – is to provide protection to innocent civilians.
Such protection must involve … the inclusion of the issues surrounding the protection of civilians in mandates for peacekeeping operations. 
France, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, “The Savaging of Humanitarian Law”, New York Times, 28 January 2009, pp. 1–2.
In 2009, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France stated:
Violations of humanitarian law are ever increasing, as the current crises are unfortunately there to remind us, whether we are looking at Darfur, Somalia, Gaza, Sri Lanka or the Kivus. … The means and methods of warfare know no limitation or restraint, [such as] … proportionality in the use of force [and] use of the minimum violence necessary …
We must react! 
France, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, “International Humanitarian Law, an Imperative”, La Croix, 12 February 2009, p. 1.