Related Rule
Netherlands
Practice Relating to Rule 15. The Principle of Precautions in Attack
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states: “In the conduct of military operations, constant care shall be taken to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects.” 
Netherlands, Toepassing Humanitair Oorlogsrecht, Voorschift No. 27-412/1, Koninklijke Landmacht, Ministerie van Defensie, 1993, p. V-10.
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands states: “The civilian population which does not participate in hostilities must be spared.” 
Netherlands, Handboek Militair, Ministerie van Defensie, 1995, p. 7-43, § 6.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “Belligerents must take every precaution in their actions against military targets to minimize victims among non-combatants (primarily civilians).” 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0225.
In its chapter on behaviour in battle, the manual states that “the civilian population of one’s own, as well as the adversary’s, side must be spared and protected”. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0507.
The manual further states: “In combat operations, everything practically possible should be done to make sure that the objectives to be attacked are not cultural property.” 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0529.
In addition, the manual provides:
A distinction must be made between precautions when attacking and precautions against the consequences of attacks (therefore “attacks” mean combat actions as a whole). In general, the rule is that, when carrying out military operations, constant care must be taken to spare the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0541.
According to the Government of the Netherlands, commanders have to take all the precautionary measures required by Article 57 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I when carrying out an attack. 
Netherlands, Lower House of Parliament, Memorandum in response to the report on the ratification of the Additional Protocols, 1985–1986 Session, Doc. 18 277 (R 1247), No. 6, 16 December 1985, p. 7, § 17.
In 2006, in reply to a written question from the Parliament concerning measures taken to prevent civilian casualties when attacking targets from the air, the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands stated: “In practice, Dutch fighter pilots will not commence with the attack on a target, if the possibility exists that civilians are in the vicinity of that target.” 
Netherlands, Lower House of Parliament, Statement by the Minister of Defence, Handelingen, 2005–2006 Session, 18 September 2006, Appendix No. 2149, p. 4572.
In 2007, in reply to a written question from the Parliament regarding civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands stated:
The Netherlands takes every measure to prevent civilian casualties. Every time the Dutch air force supports OEF-units, the Dutch Rules of Engagement apply. These Rules state that the crews of F-16’s, before commencing with the attack, at all times need to positively identify the designated target, identify whether unarmed civilians are in the vicinity of the target and collateral damage can be avoided. If these preconditions cannot be met, then the mission should be aborted. Until now, this has occurred a number of times. 
Netherlands, Lower House of Parliament, Statement by Ministers of Defence and Foreign Affairs, 25 June 2007, Handelingen, 2006–2007 Session, Appendix No. 1940, p. 4104.
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands states: “Collateral damage to civilian objects must be avoided as far as possible.” 
Netherlands, Handboek Militair, Ministerie van Defensie, 1995, p. 7-43, § 7.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “All practically feasible precautionary measures must also be taken when choosing means and methods, in order to avoid collateral damage to cultural property and in any case to limit it, as far as possible.” 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0529.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
1044. In selecting targets and/or preparing or executing attacks, care must be taken to direct such attacks only against military objectives, and to limit that collateral damage as far as possible. If necessary, attacks must be cancelled, halted or suspended. If circumstances permit, a warning should be given before an attack that might also affect the civilian population.
1045. Participants in an internal armed conflict should also take all possible measures to protect the civilian population against the consequences of attack.
1046. The above means that participants must ask themselves where they may and may not position fighters or equipment. They should make sure that they are not attacking civilians or civilian objects, but military objectives. They should not attack if the collateral damage is excessive in relation to the expected military advantage. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, §§ 1044–1046.
In its chapter on peace operations, the manual states:
1219. Rules to minimize collateral damage can also be found in the RoE [Rules of Engagement]. However broadly the RoE are drafted, each participating country is also bound by the international conventions which it has ratified …
1221. Operations must be carried out … without disruption to the civilian population and civilian objects. The population is expected to cooperate with or consent to the operation, and not to resist the activities of the peace force. This means that the planning and execution of operations and actions must pay careful attention to the manner in which the peace force fulfils its mission and what degree of force is used. Damage to infrastructure and civilian casualties must be avoided or, in any case, kept to a minimum. Damage to civilian objects must in no case be excessive in relation to the purpose to be achieved. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, §§ 1219 and 1221.
According to the Government of the Netherlands, commanders have to take all the precautionary measures required by Article 57 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I when carrying out an attack. 
Netherlands, Lower House of Parliament, Memorandum in response to the report on the ratification of the Additional Protocols, 1985–1986 Session, Doc. 18 277 (R 1247), No. 6, 16 December 1985, p. 7, § 17.
In 2003, in reply to written questions from the Parliament concerning, inter alia, guidelines for aerial bombardment, the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands stated:
The guidelines for target selection during aerial bombardments are based on the relevant provisions of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Amongst others, all reasonable precautionary measures must be taken to avoid civilian casualties and to prevent collateral damage to civilian objects. In practice, Dutch fighter pilots will not attack targets, when it is likely that civilians will be present. Also, an attack may not be carried out if the collateral damage to be expected reasonably does not relate to the actual and direct military advantage.
In the regulations and procedures regarding the planning and deployment of Dutch fighter planes, precautionary measures have been taken to prevent unintentional collateral damage. 
Netherlands, Lower House of Parliament, Statement by the Minister of Defence, Handelingen, 2003–2004 Session, 27 October 2003, Appendix No. 206, pp. 439–440.
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states:
The extent to which commanders and their staff can be held accountable for compliance with these rules [on precautions in attack] is determined by three factors: freedom of choice of means and methods, availability of information [and] available time. The higher the level [of command] the stricter the required compliance is. 
Netherlands, Toepassing Humanitair Oorlogsrecht, Voorschift No. 27-412/1, Koninklijke Landmacht, Ministerie van Defensie, 1993, p. V-11.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands provides:
The extent to which commanding officers and their staffs, if any, may be bound by these rules [on precautions in attack] depends on three specific factors:
- freedom of choice of means and methods;
- availability of intelligence;
- available time.
The higher the level [of command], the stricter the requirement for the application of the rules. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, § 0544.
At the CDDH, the Netherlands stated:
The word “feasible” when used in Protocol I, for example in Articles 50 and 51 [57 and 58], should in any particular case be interpreted as referring to that which was practicable or practically possible, taking into account all circumstances at the time. 
Netherlands, Statement at the CDDH, Official Records, Vol. VI, CDDH/SR.42, 27 May 1977, p. 214, § 61.
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, the Netherlands declared: “The word ‘feasible’ is to be understood as practicable or practically possible taking into account all circumstances ruling at the time, including humanitarian and military considerations.” 
Netherlands, Declarations made upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, 26 June 1987, § 2.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
0511. The circumstances of the time are decisive to whether an object constitutes a military objective. The definition leaves the necessary discretion to the commanding officer. The Dutch Government, in ratifying AP I [1977 Additional Protocol I], has declared in this connection that military commanders who are responsible for carrying out attacks must base their decisions on their evaluation of the information available to them at the time …
0512. …
During the second Gulf War (1990–91), the allied forces identified the Al-Firdus bunker in Baghdad as a military objective. The complex was surrounded by barbed wire barriers and was protected by an armed guard. However, it was not known that the complex was also used as overnight accommodation for Iraqi civilians. Attacks on the bunker complex resulted in 300 civilian fatalities. Given the information available at the time of the attack, the allied forces had firm grounds for classifying the complex as a military objective.
0544. If an attack has begun, it may be necessary to give orders to halt or suspend it. Essentially the same rules apply to this as to refraining from attack at the preparatory stage.
The extent to which commanding officers and their staffs, if any, may be bound by these rules depends on three specific factors:
- freedom of choice of means and methods;
- availability of intelligence;
- available time.
The higher the level, the stricter the requirement for the application of the rules …
0547. The rules of the law of war on attacking military objectives always apply in toto to the targeting process. This is a cyclical process of identifying and targeting objectives. The targeting process is integral to the command process at all levels. It demands coordination among a number of staff officers, including the legal adviser (staff jurist). The selection of targets gives a general view which forms the basis for intelligence gathering. Target detection is the next stage in the process. Information on the target must be analysed so that the final purpose of targeting can proceed. Finally, the result of targeting must be evaluated, to check whether the desired effect is achieved.
0548. The targeting process has several aspects in the law of war. In the first place, detected targets must be appraised in terms of the law of war. Does the target meet the criteria of a “military objective” (see points 0508 ff.)? The attacker must make sure that the objective to be attacked really is military. Where necessary, intelligence obtained must be verified. Then it is necessary to review how the objective is placed in relation to the civilian population and civilian objects. If necessary, precautionary measures must be taken in the choice of means and methods to be used. The issue in choosing the means is not only whether to use aeroplanes, helicopters or artillery, but also what types of bombs and ammunition to use. The choice of methods concerns, for example, the techniques of attack of fighter aircraft. The timing of the attack is another relevant factor.
The Air Force targeting cycle
The cyclical process of target selection begins with the issue of orders and guidelines by the Joint Force Commander (JFC). During the targeting cycle, the JFC’s objectives and guidelines are supplemented with intelligence and operational information, in order to select specific targets. This also serves to determine the means of achieving the desired effect of targeting. Target selection mechanisms exist at various levels. National governments or higher command headquarters may impose policy directives, restrictions and priorities on the JFC.
Joint Targeting Coordination Board
The JFC may set up a joint targeting coordination board (JTCB) to allow an integrated process of targeting to proceed. Key officers of the operational units and national liaison officers may be added to the JTCB. The JTCB may analyse target information, develop guidelines, set priorities and must compile a list of targets (the Joint Integrated Prioritized Target List or JIPTL).
Stages
The air force targeting cycle consists of six stages:
- Stage 1: coordination with component commanders (sea, land and air). The JFC regularly consults the component commanders on the results of operations, the strategy to follow and future operational plans. The JFC makes his purposes clear, provides general guidelines and determines his criteria for success. In doing so, he describes his intentions in detail and determines or adapts his priorities. The target list, compiled in this round of the coordination, includes the rules of engagement.
- Stage 2: target development. The JFC’s guidelines are used to develop targets. These are selected from the target list, requests for support from component commanders, and intelligence information. The end-product of stage 2 is a prioritized target list, the JIPTL.
- Stage 3: choice of weapons and allocation of resources, based on the JIPTL. The information is developed for approved targets. This includes stating the desired main point of impact (DMPI).
- Stage 4: Plan of implementation. The component commanders may still submit amendments to support requests at this stage. There is a greater need for explicit instructions, the more the participating units are dispersed, are of different nationalities, or originate from different sections of the armed forces.
- Stage 5: Implementation. The units carry out the actions as ordered.
- Stage 6: Combat assessment. This takes place at all levels of the joint force, and is necessary to ascertain the effectiveness of the accomplished missions. A good combat assessment requires a thorough and prompt battle damage assessment (BDA) and weapons effects analysis (WEA). Based on these, a quick decision can be taken to attack the targets further.
Flexible targeting
During execution of the mission (stage 5), it is possible to respond to targets which suddenly emerge, or to a rapidly changing operational situation, resulting in a changed order of priority. For this purpose, a process has been developed called flexible or flex targeting. Flexible targeting uses near-real-time information obtainable from various sources in the field of operations. Thus electronic and optical reconnaissance information can be used for the rapid addition of dynamic targets to the targeting cycle. The observations of forward air controllers (FACs), who may be airborne or attached to land units, may also furnish information about targets. The nearest FAC may be given direct clearance for an approved target. For the air force, the AWACS, in consultation with the FAC, observes which attack aircraft are in the vicinity and available. Depending on proximity to buildings, the probabilities of collateral damage and victims among the civilian population, and the rules of engagement, the FAC decides whether to attack, and which of the available aircraft and weapon systems to use. Both for stage 5 and for flex targeting, pilots on an attack mission may come across information which must be considered in the targeting process. 
Netherlands, Humanitair Oorlogsrecht: Handleiding, Voorschift No. 27-412, Koninklijke Landmacht, Militair Juridische Dienst, 2005, §§ 0511, 0512, 0544, 0547–0548.
[emphasis in original]
At the CDDH, the Netherlands stated:
Commanders and others responsible for planning, deciding upon or executing attacks necessarily had to reach decisions on the basis of their assessment of the information from all sources which was available to them at the relevant time. 
Netherlands, Statement at the CDDH, Official Records, Vol. VI, CDDH/SR.42, 27 May 1977, p. 205, § 1.
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, the Netherlands declared with regard to Articles 51 to 58 inclusive:
It is the understanding of the Government of the Kingdom of the Netherlands that military commanders and others responsible for planning, deciding upon or executing attacks necessarily have to reach decisions on the basis of their assessment of the information from all sources which is available to them at the relevant time. 
Netherlands, Declarations made upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, 26 June 1987, § 6.