Practice Relating to Rule 53. Starvation as a Method of Warfare

Geneva Convention IV
Article 23 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides:
Each High Contracting Party shall allow the free passage of all consignments of medical and hospital stores and objects necessary for religious worship intended only for civilians of another High Contracting Party, even if the latter is its adversary. It shall likewise permit the free passage of all consignments of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases.
The obligation of a High Contracting Party to allow the free passage of the consignments indicated in the preceding paragraph is subject to the condition that this Party is satisfied that there are no serious reasons for fearing:
(a) that the consignments may be diverted from their destination,
(b) that the control may not be effective, or
(c) that a definite advantage may accrue to the military efforts or economy of the enemy through the substitution of the above-mentioned consignments for goods which would otherwise be provided or produced by the enemy or through the release of such material, services or facilities as would otherwise be required for the production of such goods.
The Power which allows the passage of the consignments indicated in the first paragraph of this Article may make such permission conditional on the distribution to the persons benefited thereby being made under the local supervision of the Protecting Powers.
Such consignments shall be forwarded as rapidly as possible, and the Power which permits their free passage shall have the right to prescribe the technical arrangements under which such passage is allowed. 
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article 23.
Lieber Code
Article 18 of the 1863 Lieber Code provides:
When a commander of a besieged place expels the noncombatants, in order to lessen the number of those who consume his stock of provisions, it is lawful, though an extreme measure, to drive them back, so as to hasten on the surrender. 
Instructions for the Government of Armies of the United States in the Field, prepared by Francis Lieber, promulgated as General Order No. 100 by President Abraham Lincoln, Washington D.C., 24 April 1863, Article 18.
Argentina
Argentina’s Law of War Manual (1969), in a chapter dealing, inter alia, with siege warfare, provides: “Belligerent forces must try and conclude agreements which facilitate … the free passage of … essential foodstuffs and clothing.” 
Argentina, Leyes de Guerra, RC-46-1, Público, II Edición 1969, Ejército Argentino, Edición original aprobado por el Comandante en Jefe del Ejército, 9 May 1967, § 1.014.
Australia
Australia’s Commanders’ Guide (1994), in a section on siege warfare, provides that, in such a situation, “provision is … made for the passage … of essential foodstuffs, clothing, tonics intended for children under 15, expectant mothers and maternity cases”. 
Australia, Law of Armed Conflict, Commanders’ Guide, Australian Defence Force Publication, Operations Series, ADFP 37 Supplement 1 – Interim Edition, 7 March 1994, § 926.
Australia
Australia’s Defence Force Manual (1994), in a section on siege warfare, states:
The opposing parties are required to try and conclude local agreements … for the passage … of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under 15, expectant mothers and maternity cases. 
Australia, Manual on Law of Armed Conflict, Australian Defence Force Publication, Operations Series, ADFP 37 – Interim Edition, 1994, § 735.
Australia
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states that, in the context of siege warfare:
The opposing parties are required to try and conclude local agreements … for the passage … of essential foodstuffs, clothing and tonics intended for children under 15, expectant mothers and maternity cases. 
Australia, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Australian Defence Doctrine Publication 06.4, Australian Defence Headquarters, 11 May 2006, § 7.38.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
Canada
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999), in a section on siege warfare, stresses:
If circumstances permit, … the parties should … permit passage to these [besieged] areas of … essential foodstuffs, clothing, and tonics intended for children under the age of 15, expectant mothers, and maternity cases. 
Canada, The Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Level, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 1999, p. 6-4, § 35(e).
Canada
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter on land warfare:
If circumstances permit, the parties to a conflict must endeavour to conclude local agreements for the removal from besieged areas of wounded, sick, infirm, and aged persons, children and maternity cases.
The parties should also permit passage to these areas of:
e. essential foodstuffs, clothing, and tonics intended for children under the age of 15, expectant mothers, and maternity cases. 
Canada, The Law of Armed Conflict at the Operational and Tactical Levels, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 13 August 2001, § 614.6.e.
Côte d’Ivoire
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers):
IV.3. During a siege operation
… The law which applies to siege operations is essentially only a combination of elements already addressed. Thus, in case of attack, the rules governing offensive operations apply. In the case of defence, the rules covering defensive operations apply.
The key aspects are described below.
IV.3.2. The civilian population staying
If the civilians do not leave the town under siege, this does not signify that the commander who directs the attack is dispensed from his duties to take all the usual precautions listed above. For all these reasons, a ceasefire allowing for evacuation seems to constitute a logical solution. Sure, violators could consider that it is in their interest to hold back the civilian population, or parts of that population, to serve as human shields, or to elicit the sympathy of international opinion regarding the humanitarian situation of the population and thereby to discredit the enemy. Nevertheless, the force leading the attack can easily thwart these proceedings by respecting the law, giving warnings, giving time for an evacuation in the form of a ceasefire, and by ensuring that the civilians are granted passage in safe conditions towards a protected zone or place.
The general prohibition of starvation as a method of warfare against the civilian population implies that consignments of food and medical supplies, drinking water and other objects indispensable for its survival are not impeded, under the condition that they are distributed only to the civilian population of the town under siege and not to armed forces defending it. This rule completely prohibits the strategies traditionally employed in sieges, because the besieger often starved the population of enemy towns. 
Côte d’Ivoire, Droit de la guerre, Manuel d’instruction, Livre III, Tome 1: Instruction de l’élève officier d’active de 1ère année, Manuel de l’élève, Ministère de la Défense, Forces Armées Nationales, November 2007, pp. 50–52; see also Droit de la guerre, Manuel d’instruction, Livre IV: Instruction du chef de section et du commandant de compagnie, Manuel de l’élève, Ministère de la Défense, Forces Armées Nationales, November 2007, pp. 72–73.
France
France’s LOAC Manual (2001), under the definition of siege, states: “The starvation of civilian populations as a method of warfare is prohibited.”  
France, Manuel de droit des conflits armés, Ministère de la Défense, Direction des Affaires Juridiques, Sous-Direction du droit international humanitaire et du droit européen, Bureau du droit des conflits armés, 2001, p. 117.
Israel
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states:
Siege as a method of warfare vis-a-vis a military objective is an absolutely legal method even if it involves the starvation of the besieged or preventing the transfer of medications in order to achieve surrender.
A question arises in the case of a military siege of an inhabited city. Until recently there were no rules relating to this method of warfare, and it was allowed to exploit the suffering of the local population in order to subdue the enemy. Following the Second World War, a provision was set in the Additional Protocols of 1977, forbidding the starvation of a civilian population in war. This provision clearly implies that the city’s inhabitants must be allowed to leave the city during a siege. 
Israel, Laws of War in the Battlefield, Manual, Military Advocate General Headquarters, Military School, 1998, p. 59.
Israel
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states:
A siege of a military target is a completely legitimate means of warfare, even if it involves the starvation of the besieged soldiers. A question arises in the case of a military siege of a populated town. Until recently, there were no rules attached to this method of warfare, and it was permitted to exploit the suffering of the local population in order to overcome the enemy. The [1977] Additional Protocols to the Geneva Convention contain a provision banning starvation of the civilian population in battle. The meaning to be extracted from this provision is that the residents of a city need to be allowed to leave it if it is besieged. In cases where civilians do not have the opportunity to leave the besieged city, a duty arises to supply them with food, water and humanitarian aid. 
Israel, Rules of Warfare on the Battlefield, Military Advocate-General’s Corps Command, IDF School of Military Law, Second Edition, 2006, p. 37.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
New Zealand
New Zealand’s Military Manual (1992) notes that siege is not prohibited “even if it causes some collateral deprivation to the civilian population, so long as starvation is not the specific purpose”. 
New Zealand, Interim Law of Armed Conflict Manual, DM 112, New Zealand Defence Force, Headquarters, Directorate of Legal Services, Wellington, November 1992, § 504(2), footnote 9.
In a section on siege warfare, the manual further provides that, in such a situation, “provision is … made in [Article 23 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV] for the passage … of essential foodstuffs, clothing, and tonics intended for children under 15, expectant mothers and maternity cases”. 
New Zealand, Interim Law of Armed Conflict Manual, DM 112, New Zealand Defence Force, Headquarters, Directorate of Legal Services, Wellington, November 1992, § 508(3).
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
5.34. The principles of the law of armed conflict, particularly the rules relating to attacks, apply equally to situations of siege or encirclement.
5.34.2. Encirclement poses problems for the attacking commander if there are civilians in the encircled area, especially if the encircled area is, or contains, a town which is inhabited by civilians but is defended by enemy armed forces. In any bombardment, the normal rules on precautions in attack apply. So do the rules preventing starvation of the civilian population as a method of warfare or those protecting supplies indispensable for the survival of the civilian population. There is also an obligation to allow essential relief supplies through to the civilian population. 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, §§ 5.34. and 5.34.2.
With regard to internal armed conflict, the manual states:
15.19. Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited.
15.19.1. The right to life is a non-derogable human right. Violence to the life and person of civilians is prohibited, whatever method is adopted to achieve it. It follows that the destruction of crops, foodstuffs and water sources, to such an extent that starvation is likely to follow, is also prohibited. The same applies to sieges, blockades, embargoes, or the blocking of relief supplies with the intention of causing starvation. 
United Kingdom, The Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, Ministry of Defence, 1 July 2004, §§ 15.19–15.19.1.
United States of America
The US Field Manual (1956), in a chapter dealing, inter alia, with siege warfare, states that, in such a situation, “provision is … made in Article 23 [of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV] for the passage … of essential foodstuffs, clothing, and tonics intended for children under 15, expectant mothers, and maternity cases”. 
United States, Field Manual 27-10, The Law of Land Warfare, US Department of the Army, 18 July 1956, as modified by Change No. 1, 15 July 1976, § 44.
No data.
No data.
Albania
In 1992, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania stated:
Many cities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have been besieged for several months, and their population is under constant artillery fire and left without food, electricity, water supply and medicine. All this will certainly leave a scar on the population for several generations, and the evil is beyond remedy. 
Albania, Statement before the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/PV.3136, 16 November 1992, § 50.
Germany
In 1995, in a statement before the UN General Assembly on Germany’s appreciation of UN achievements, the German Foreign Minister praised the efforts of peacekeepers “who keep the beleaguered people from starving”. 
Germany, Statement before the UN General Assembly, UN Doc. A/50/PV.8, 27 September 1995, pp. 4 and 5.
Pakistan
In 1993, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the establishment of a no-fly zone in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Pakistan declared that “we have witnessed with mounting horror and revulsion … the use of siege and the cutting off of supplies of food and other essentials to civilian population centres”. 
Pakistan, Statement before the UN Security Council, UN Doc. S/PV.3191, 31 March 1993, § 30.
UN Security Council
In a resolution adopted in June 1992 on deployment of additional elements of UNPROFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN Security Council underlined “the urgency of quick delivery of humanitarian assistance to [besieged] Sarajevo and its environs”. 
UN Security Council, Res. 761, 29 June 1992, preamble, voting record: 15-0-0.
UN Security Council
In a resolution adopted in July 1992 on deployment of additional elements of UNPROFOR in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN Security Council stated that it was “deeply disturbed by the situation which now prevails in [besieged] Sarajevo” and deplored the continuation of the fighting “which is rendering difficult the provision of humanitarian aid in Sarajevo”. 
UN Security Council, Res. 764, 13 July 1992, preamble, voting record: 15-0-0.
UN Security Council
In a resolution adopted in 1993 on a comprehensive political settlement of the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN Security Council expressed its “concern” about the continuing siege of Sarajevo and strongly condemned “the disruption of public utilities (including water, electricity, fuel and communications)”. 
UN Security Council, Res. 859, 24 August 1993, preamble, voting record: 15-0-0.
UN Security Council
In 1994, in a statement by its President, the UN Security Council expressed grave concern at the continuing hostilities in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina and especially deplored “the rapidly deteriorating situation in the Maglaj area and the threat it poses to the survival of the remaining civilian population”. It noted that “this intolerable situation has been perpetuated by the intensity of the nine-month siege of the town” and demanded that “the siege of Maglaj be ended immediately”. 
UN Security Council, Statement by the President, UN Doc. S/PRST/1994/11, 14 March 1994, p. 1.
UN General Assembly
In a resolution adopted in 1993 on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UN General Assembly:
Expressing its concern about the continuing siege of Sarajevo and other Bosnian cities and of “safe areas” which endangers the well-being and safety of their inhabitants,
6. Demands that the Bosnian Serb party lift forthwith the siege of Sarajevo and other “safe areas”, as well as other besieged Bosnian towns.  
UN General Assembly, Res. 48/88, 20 December 1993, preamble and § 6, voting record: 109-0-57-18.
The call upon the Bosnian Serb party to lift the siege of Sarajevo was repeated in a resolution on the same topic adopted in 1994. 
UN General Assembly, Res. 49/10, 3 November 1994, § 4, voting record: 97-0-61-26.
The siege of Sarajevo and other Bosnian towns was condemned again a few weeks later. 
UN General Assembly, Res. 49/196, 23 December 1994, § 7, voting record: 150-0-14-21.
UN Commission on Human Rights
In a resolution adopted in 1994 on the situation of human rights in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, the UN Commission on Human Rights demanded “immediate, firm and resolute action by the international community to stop all human rights violations, including … strangulation of cities in Bosnia”. 
UN Commission on Human Rights, Res. 1994/72, 9 March 1994, § 5, adopted without a vote.
UN Commission on Human Rights (Special Rapporteur)
In 1995, in a report on the situation of human rights in the territory of the former Yugoslavia, the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights stated:
Sarajevo has been the scene of some of the gravest violations of human rights in the course of this conflict … The humanitarian situation has also been extremely serious, with acute food shortages and problems with utilities which have frequently been used as a weapon of war. 
UN Commission on Human Rights, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Former Yugoslavia, Periodic report, UN Doc. S/1995/933-A/50/727, 7 November 1995, Annex, § 54.
Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (Rapporteur)
In 1992, in a report on the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, the rapporteur of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly declared that “the siege and the systematic shelling of Sarajevo … are actions unanimously condemned by the international community”. 
Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Report on the crisis in the former Yugoslavia, Doc. 6639, 29 June 1992, § II 9.
European Union
In 1994, in a plenary session of the UN General Assembly on the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the EU expressed its concern about “the situation in Sarajevo and the danger of its strangulation”. 
EU, Statement by Germany on behalf of the EU before the UN General Assembly, UN Doc. A/49/PV.50, 3 November 1994, p. 19.
Western European Union Presidential Committee
In 1994, the Presidential Committee of the WEU adopted a declaration on the situation in the former Yugoslavia and called for an immediate end to the siege of Sarajevo. 
WEU, Presidential Committee, Declaration on the situation in the former Yugoslavia, PRCO Doc 1413, 26 April 1994.
World Conference on Human Rights
In a Special Declaration on Bosnia and Herzegovina, the World Conference on Human Rights in 1993 urged the world community and all international bodies, in particular the UN Security Council,
to take forceful and decisive steps for effective measures of peace-making in the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina with a view to … extending immediate humanitarian help for the relief of persons in besieged towns and cities as well as other victims. 
World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna, 14-25 June 1993, Special Declaration on Bosnia and Herzegovina, § 7, UN Doc. A/CONF.157/24 (Part I), 13 October 1993, Chapter IV.B, § 47.
No data.
No data.
Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A)
According to the Report on SPLM/A Practice, one of the popular practices employed by the SPLM/A against the Sudanese Government is to besiege garrison towns held by the Sudanese army. The report points out that the main strategy is to force the government army of the garrison to surrender, but that the civilian population living in these garrisons and towns is also greatly affected. 
Report on SPLM/A Practice, 1998, Chapter 4.1.