Practice Relating to Rule 7. The Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives
Section A. The principle of distinction
France’s LOAC Summary Note (1992) provides: “The civilian population and civilian objects must be preserved and distinguished in every circumstance from combatants and military objectives.”
France’s LOAC Teaching Note (2000) provides: “The actions of both the commander and the combatant must be guided by the respect of the fundamental principles of … distinction between military objectives and civilian objects, regarding the nature of the target.”
France’s LOAC Manual (2001) provides:
The principle of discrimination, also known as the principle of precaution, requires belligerents to distinguish military objectives that may be attacked, from civilian objects and populations that must not be the object of any wilful voluntary attack.
The instructions given to the French armed forces for the conduct of Opération Mistral (1995), 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.”
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 prohibition of superfluous injury and 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.
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 … military targets and civilian targets, the latter to be protected. There are few conflicts in which that principle is fully respected.