Practice Relating to Rule 17. Choice of Means and Methods of Warfare
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands requires that “precautionary measures be taken in the choice of means and methods of attack in order to ensure that collateral damage (loss of civilian life and damage to civilian objects) is reduced to the maximum extent possible”.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
[M]eans and methods of fighting are forbidden where their execution or deployment make it impossible to limit the repercussions to combatants and military targets, so that civilians and civilian property may also be involved.
In its chapter on behaviour in battle, the manual states: “All practically feasible precautionary measures must also be taken when choosing means and methods, in order to avoid collateral damage to cultural property”.
The manual further states:
When selecting objectives and preparing to attack, the attacker must:
- take practical precautionary measures in the choice of means and methods, in order to limit collateral damage (loss of life among civilians and the civilian population and damage to civilian objects), as far as possible;
At this stage, it is a matter for those who are preparing, or deciding on, an attack. It may be a divisional commander with his staff, but also the commanding officer of a patrol. There is not always any choice of methods and means before an attack. However, more choice exists with larger units and groupings than at lower level. Thought must be given to the choice of methods or techniques of attack, resources (weapons and weapon systems), timing, and whether or not to warn the civilian population.
In its chapter on peace operations, the manual states: “Even a peace force does not have an unfettered choice of methods and means when the use of force is indicated.”
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.