Practice Relating to Rule 156. Definition of War Crimes
South Africa’s LOAC Manual (1996) provides:
35. While any breach of the law of armed conflict is a war crime, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 define certain offences as ‘grave breaches’ if they are committed against protected persons or property. Signatory states are required to treat as criminals under domestic law anyone who commits or orders a grave breach
36. [The 1977 Additional] Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions codifies in greater detail two separate categories of grave breaches.
a. The first category relates to combat activities and medical experimentation. It requires both willfulness and that death or serious injury to body or health is caused.
b. The second category requires only willfulness.
37. Grave breaches which fall into the first category include, but are not limited to, the following:
41. Grave breaches of the law of war are regarded as war crimes. They shall be repressed by penal sanctions. Other breaches of the law of war shall be repressed by disciplinary or penal sanctions.
South Africa’s Revised Civic Education Manual (2004) states: “Any grave breach of the LOAC is regarded as a war crime.”