Practice Relating to Rule 37. Open Towns and Non-Defended Localities
In the Priebke case
in 1996, Italy’s Military Tribunal of Rome examined the status of Rome as an “open town” in 1944. The Tribunal concluded that the city did not enjoy such status, arguing that neither a unilateral declaration nor the voluntary behaviour of one of the parties was sufficient to establish an obligation upon the other party. Only after acceptance was obtained from the other party (or parties), i.e. when an agreement was reached, could the status of open town become legally binding for the belligerents.
Italy’s IHL Manual (1991) qualifies “indiscriminate attacks against … non-defended localities” as war crimes.
Italy’s LOAC Elementary Rules Manual (1991) states:
Where protected zones or localities (… non-defended localities) have been agreed upon, the competent commanders shall issue instructions for action and behaviour near and towards such zones or localities.
The manual also provides that “protected zones shall be respected”.