Practice Relating to Rule 146. Reprisals against Protected Persons
Section E. Civilians in general
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands, in a chapter dealing with reprisals and referring to Article 51 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, states: “Attacking the civilian population by measures of reprisal is forbidden.”
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands states: “Protected persons under the laws of war are: … personnel of civil defence organizations such as the fire brigade … civilians … Reprisals against them must not be taken.” It further states: “reprisals against the civilian population are prohibited”.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
In the history of warfare, reprisals carried out have often exceeded the set limits. This has led to the current prohibition, in the humanitarian law of war and specifically in AP I [1977 Additional Protocol I], of reprisals against several groups of people and objects.
The following are now forbidden as reprisals:
- attacks on the civilian population or civilians.
In its chapter on behaviour in battle, the manual states: “Attacks on the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals are prohibited.”
In its chapter on the protection of the civilian population, the manual states that “reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited”.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states that “[i]t is prohibited in all circumstances to direct any form of reprisal against the civilian population or to waive fundamental guarantees as a form of reprisal”.
At the CDDH, the Netherlands introduced an amendment to draft Additional Protocol I on behalf of its sponsors (Austria, Egypt, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines and USSR).
The Netherlands stated:
In fact, reprisals could rarely be confined to civilian objects alone and the infliction of suffering on the civilian population would be virtually inevitable … The sponsors of the amendment were in favour of extending [the prohibition of reprisals against civilians] to a complete ban on all reprisals against the civilian population and civilian objects alike.
At the CDDH, during discussions on the protection of civilian objects, the Netherlands stated: “Reprisals on civilian populations were prohibited by international law.”