Practice Relating to Rule 42. Works and Installations Containing Dangerous Forces
Section A. Attacks against works and installations containing dangerous forces and against military objectives located in their vicinity
France’s LOAC Summary Note (1992) provides: “The specific immunity granted to certain persons and objects by the law of war [including works and installations containing dangerous forces] must be strictly observed … They may not be attacked.”
The Summary Note further specifies:
The immunity of specifically protected objects may only be lifted under certain conditions and under the personal responsibility of the commander. Military necessity justifies only those measures which are indispensable for the accomplishment of the mission.
The Summary Note qualifies “attacks against works and installations containing forces which are dangerous for the civilian population” as a war crime.
France’s LOAC Teaching Note (2000) states that “the law of armed conflict grants specific protection to certain specially marked installations and zones”, including certain works and installations containing dangerous forces.
The Teaching Note further states: “Dams, dykes and nuclear electrical generating stations are considered to be installations containing dangerous forces and must not be attacked in any circumstances.”
France’s LOAC Manual (2001), with reference to Article 56 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I and Article 15 of the 1977 Additional Protocol II, includes works and installations containing dangerous forces among objects which are specifically protected by the law of armed conflict.
The manual further restates the prohibition on attacking dams, dykes and nuclear power plants, and the exceptions thereto, as found in Article 56 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I and stresses: “A decision to attack such works and installations belongs to the commander whose criminal responsibility is engaged in case the action undertaken is illegal.”
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, France declared:
The Government of the French Republic cannot guarantee absolute protection to works and installations containing dangerous forces, which may contribute to the opposing Party’s war effort, or to the defenders of such installations, but will take all necessary precautions, pursuant to Articles 56, 57(2)(a)(iii) and 85(3)(c) [of the 1977 Additional Protocol I], to avoid severe collateral losses among the civilian population, including during possible direct attacks against such works and installations.