Practice Relating to Rule 54. Attacks against Objects Indispensable to the Survival of the Civilian Population
Section A. Attacks against objects
Sweden’s IHL Manual (1991) states:
Article 54:2 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol I] … prohibits attack on such property as is essential for the survival of a civilian population for the purpose of depriving the civilian population or the adversary of vital necessities, in order to starve them out or compel them to leave an area, or for any other reason. It is equally forbidden to remove such property or render it useless. The property which shall receive protection in the first instance is foodstuffs and agricultural areas, crops, cattle, plant and reservoirs for drinking water and irrigation works. This list is incomplete, and further objects could be added. It may be pertinent to list also civilian dwellings in cold areas, which considerably increase the scope of the article. Yet it is less probable that such an extension would gain general approval. Moreover, civilian dwellings have protection in Article 52, even though this is far from sufficient.
The prohibition in Article 54:2 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol I] applies only to attack, removal or incapacitation performed for the purpose given – thus the article offers no protection against unintentional injury or losses arising from an attack that has other purposes. Attack on a hostile force deployed in the neighbourhood of a community may thus for example lead to damage to a nearby grain store without these secondary effects involving a breach of Article 54.
In 2009, in answer to a written question in Parliament regarding animals in war, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:
The property that is necessary for the survival of the civilian population is protected under international humanitarian law or the laws of war. It is prohibited to attack, destroy, deduct or make unusable such property as foodstuffs, agricultural areas, crops, livestock and water facilities.