Related Rule
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 8. Definition of Military Objectives
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states that military objectives are:
objects which by their location, nature, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage. They include buildings, minefields, weapons, concentrations of troops and individual enemy combatants. 
United Kingdom, The Law of Armed Conflict, D/DAT/13/35/66, Army Code 71130 (Revised 1981), Ministry of Defence, prepared under the Direction of The Chief of the General Staff, 1981, Section 4, p. 13, § 3(b)(2).
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
5.4.1. The term “military objective” includes combatant members of the enemy armed forces and their military weapons, vehicles, equipment and installations. It may include other objects which have military value such as bridges, communications towers, electricity and refined oil production facilities. Objects are only military objectives if they come within the following definition:
those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offers a definite military advantage.
5.4.4. The definition of military objectives contains various elements that require explanation:
a. The second part of the definition limits the first. Both parts must apply before an object can be considered a military objective.
b. Attacks on military objectives that cause incidental loss or damage to civilians are not prohibited so long as the proportionality rule is complied with.
c. “Nature” refers to the type of object, for example, military transports, command and control centres or communications stations.
d. “Location” includes areas which are militarily important because they must be captured or denied to the enemy or because the enemy must be made to retreat from them. An area of land can, thus, be a military objective.
e. “Purpose” means the future intended use of an object while “use” means its present function.
f. The words “nature, location, purpose or use” seem at first sight to allow a wide discretion, but they are subject to the qualifications later in the definition of “effective contribution to military action” and the offering of “a definite military advantage”. There does not have to be geographical proximity between “effective contribution” and “military advantage”. That means that attacks on military supply dumps in the rear or diversionary attacks, away from the area of actual military operations, can be launched.
g. “Military action” means military action generally, not a limited or specific military operation.
h. The words “in the circumstances ruling at the time” are important. If, for example, the enemy moved a divisional headquarters into a disused textile factory, an attack on that headquarters would be permissible (even though the factory might be destroyed in the process) because of the prevailing circumstances. Once the enemy moved their headquarters away, the circumstances would change again and the immunity of the factory would be restored.
i. “Definite” means a concrete and perceptible military advantage rather than a hypothetical and speculative one.
j. “Military advantage”. The military advantage anticipated from an attack refers to the advantage anticipated from the attack considered as a whole and not only from isolated or particular parts of the attack. The advantage need not be immediate. 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, §§ 5.4.1 and 5.4.4.
The manual further states:
Unless they are exempt from attack under paragraphs 13.35 [relating to hospital ships] or 12.29 [relating to conditions of exemption for medical aircraft], enemy warships and military aircraft and enemy auxiliary vessels and aircraft are military objectives. 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 12.39.
With regard to non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
There is no definition of military objectives or attacks in the treaty law dealing with non-international armed conflicts. Nevertheless, the definitions used in respect of international armed conflicts should be treated as applicable. 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 15.9.1.
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence stated:
On the bombing campaign in Baghdad, I anticipate that the great majority of people there will see for themselves the nature of the targeting. It will be clear that regime targets – Saddam’s Ministries and palaces – are being destroyed. As the campaign evolves, there will be no clearer message to the people of Iraq that we have no quarrel with them, but that we do have a serious difference with Saddam Hussein. 
United Kingdom, House of Commons, Statement by the Secretary of State for Defence, Hansard, 21 March 2003, Vol. 401, Debates, cols. 1217–1218.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated: “Operations by United Kingdom forces have involved aerial attacks on Iraqi installations supporting Iraq’s capacity to sustain its illegal occupation of Kuwait.” 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 21 January 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22115, 21 January 1991.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states that military objectives include “concentrations of troops and individual enemy combatants”. 
United Kingdom, The Law of Armed Conflict, D/DAT/13/35/66, Army Code 71130 (Revised 1981), Ministry of Defence, prepared under the Direction of The Chief of the General Staff, 1981, Section 4, p. 13, § 3(b)(2).
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states: “The term “military objective” includes combatant members of the enemy armed forces and their military weapons, vehicles, equipment and installations.” 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 5.4.1.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated that attacks had been directed against Iraq’s air force and land army. 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 28 January 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22156, 28 January 1991, p. 1.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states that military objectives include “buildings”. 
United Kingdom, The Law of Armed Conflict, D/DAT/13/35/66, Army Code 71130 (Revised 1981), Ministry of Defence, prepared under the Direction of The Chief of the General Staff, 1981, Section 4, p. 13, § 3(b)(2).
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states: “The term ‘military objective’ includes combatant members of the enemy armed forces and their military weapons, vehicles, equipment and installations.” 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 5.4.1.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom listed ammunition storage depots among the targets the Royal Air Force had attacked. 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 13 February 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22218, 13 February 1991, p. 1.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states that military objectives include “minefields [and] weapons”. 
United Kingdom, The Law of Armed Conflict, D/DAT/13/35/66, Army Code 71130 (Revised 1981), Ministry of Defence, prepared under the Direction of The Chief of the General Staff, 1981, Section 4, p. 13, § 3(b)(2).
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states: “The term ‘military objective’ includes combatant members of the enemy armed forces and their military weapons, vehicles, equipment and installations.” 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, § 5.4.1.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated that it had targeted Iraq’s fixed and mobile SCUD missile launchers and its chemical and biological warfare installations, production and storage capability. 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 28 January 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22156, 28 January 1991, p. 1.
In another such report, the United Kingdom stated that it had attacked “elements of the Iraqi air defence system” and specified that “the Royal Air Force [had] attacked surface-to-air missile sites, artillery positions, ammunition storage and Silkworm surface-to-surface missile sites”. 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 13 February 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22218, 13 February 1991, p. 1.
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence made a statement and replied to questions by Members:
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about military operations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
President Bush announced at 3.15 this morning on behalf of the coalition that operations had begun with attacks on selected targets of military importance. Those attacks were carried out by coalition aircraft and cruise missiles on more than one target in the vicinity of Baghdad, following information relating to the whereabouts of very senior members of the Iraqi leadership. Those leaders are at the very heart of Iraq’s command and control system, responsible for directing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
In addition to those attacks, coalition forces yesterday carried out certain preliminary operations against Iraqi artillery, surface-to-surface missiles, and air defence systems within the southern no-fly zone. Those were prudent preparatory steps, using coalition air capabilities previously used in the no-fly zones, designed to reduce the threat to coalition forces in Kuwait. The protection of our servicemen and women is a matter of paramount importance. 
United Kingdom, House of Commons, Statements by the Secretary of State for Defence, Hansard, 20 March 2003, Vol. 401, Debates, col. 1087.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated: “Iraqi military command and control has been severely damaged and increasingly Iraq has moved to alternative, less effective means of communication. Iraq’s ability to sustain a war has been steadily reduced.” 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 28 January 1991 from the United Kingdom to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22156, 28 January 1991, p. 1.
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Commons on “Iraq (Overnight events)”, the UK Secretary of State for Defence made a statement and replied to questions by Members:
The Secretary of State for Defence (Mr. Geoffrey Hoon): With permission, Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a statement about military operations to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
President Bush announced at 3.15 this morning on behalf of the coalition that operations had begun with attacks on selected targets of military importance. Those attacks were carried out by coalition aircraft and cruise missiles on more than one target in the vicinity of Baghdad, following information relating to the whereabouts of very senior members of the Iraqi leadership. Those leaders are at the very heart of Iraq’s command and control system, responsible for directing Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.
Mr. Simon Thomas (Ceredigion): … Will the Secretary of State confirm that the attacks last night were in residential areas of Baghdad and were, in fact, an attempt to assassinate Saddam Hussein? Will he take this opportunity to spell out in more detail the UK MOD processes for ensuring the protection of civilians in such situations? What advice is taken and given in order to achieve that? …
Mr. Hoon: The hon. Gentleman probably understands more about the nature of Iraqi society than he is letting on. In the past, we have heard many references to the palaces that the regime has constructed. Those palaces are residential – if the hon. Gentleman chooses to describe them as such – but they are also command and control centres that are operated by leaders of the regime simply because they are afraid of any close contact with their own people. In reality, those targets are perfectly legitimate military targets because they are the places from which Saddam Hussein exercises command and control over his own people and over weapons of mass destruction. It is entirely consistent with our campaign objectives that such military command and control facilities should be targeted.
Mr. George Osborne (Tatton): It is clear from the action overnight that the military is targeting Saddam Hussein himself. Should Saddam Hussein be killed or overthrown, would military action cease immediately? If not, how would the Iraqi military bring the conflict to a close? What would it have to say to us to bring the conflict to an end?
Mr. Hoon: We are pursuing lawful military targets. Clearly, part of that effort is designed to disrupt the command and control of the regime. As I have said, and as the Prime Minister made clear yesterday, we are seeking to remove weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. However, with the expiry of the ultimatum to the regime and to Saddam Hussein, the means of achieving that will be through the removal of the regime. The removal of the regime will be the specific focus of our military operations. 
United Kingdom, House of Commons, Statements by the Secretary of State for Defence, Hansard, 20 March 2003, Vol. 401, Debates, cols. 1087 and 1093–1094.
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Commons, the UK Prime Minister replied to a question by a Member:
Mr. Duncan Smith: Given the Prime Minister’s answer about losing grip on power with regard to Saddam Hussein, he knows that television is a powerful medium and that it is never more so than during times of war when it is used by a ruthless dictator, like Saddam Hussein. Will the Prime Minister tell us what progress is being made to take Iraqi television off air permanently, how successful coalition attempts have been to jam Iraqi radio broadcasts in Iraq, and what methods are being used to pass information to the Iraqi people to let them know that, if and when they rise up, they will be supported?
The Prime Minister: In relation to any military targets, we have to ensure that they have a military objective – that is the legal requirement as well as the stated political objective that we have set. There is no doubt that one of the issues is how we can best communicate with the Iraqi people. That is being urgently looked at. There are different ways in which we can communicate with them, including through people inside Iraq who can tell them exactly what is happening. 
United Kingdom, House of Commons, Statement by the Prime Minister, Hansard, 26 March 2003, Vol. 402, Debates, col. 282.
In 2003, in reply to a written question in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence wrote:
The military campaign is crafted around the principle of minimum use of force. We attack only military objectives and combatants subject to the constraints of proportionality …
Television offices and studios have not been the object of coalition attacks. The coalition has attacked, and reserves the right to continue to attack systems (such as transmitters) which are used by the regime for conveying military command and control information. Coalition attacks are designed to minimise damage to civilian infrastructure. 
United Kingdom, House of Commons, Written answer by the Secretary of State for Defence, Hansard, 9 April 2003, Vol. 403, Written Answers, col. 297W.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated that it had attacked “main Iraqi military airfields”. 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 28 January 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22156, 28 January 1991, p. 1.
In a further report, it stated that “airfields” and “bridges vital to the military supply effort to and from Kuwait” had been attacked. 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 13 February 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22218, 13 February 1991, p. 1.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated that Iraq’s oil refining capacity had been specifically targeted with the objective of “reducing Iraq’s military sustainability”. 
United Kingdom, Letter dated 28 January 1991 to the President of the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/22156, 28 January 1991, p. 1.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states that military objectives include “areas of land which either have military significance such as hills, defiles or bridgeheads or which contain military objects; or … minefields”. 
United Kingdom, The Law of Armed Conflict, D/DAT/13/35/66, Army Code 71130 (Revised 1981), Ministry of Defence, prepared under the Direction of The Chief of the General Staff, 1981, Section 4, p. 13, § 3(b)(1).
At the CDDH, the United Kingdom stated:
A specific area of land might be a military objective if, because of its location or for other reasons specified in Article 47 [now Article 52 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I], its total or partial destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the time, offered a definite military advantage. 
United Kingdom, Statement at the CDDH, Official Records, Vol. VI, CDDH/SR.41, 26 May 1977, p. 169, § 153.
Upon signature of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, the United Kingdom stated in relation to Article 52 of the Protocol:
In relation to Article 52, that a specific area of land may be a military objective if, because of its location or other reasons specified in the Article, its total or partial destruction, capture or neutralisation in the circumstances ruling at the time offers definite military advantage. 
United Kingdom, Declaration made upon signature of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, 12 December 1977, § f.
Upon ratification of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the United Kingdom stated with respect to Protocol II, Article 2 and Protocol III, Article 1:
A specific area of land may be a military objective if, because of its location or other reasons specified in this article, its total or partial destruction, capture or neutralisation in the circumstances ruling at the time offers a definite military advantage. 
United Kingdom, Declaration made upon ratification of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, 13 February 1995, § (b).
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, the United Kingdom stated:
It is the understanding of the United Kingdom that a specific area of land may be a military objective if, because of its location or other reasons specified in this Article 52, its total or partial destruction, capture or neutralisation in the circumstances ruling at the time offers a definite military advantage. 
United Kingdom, Reservations and declarations made upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, 28 January 1998, § j.