Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Uruguay’s Basic Information for the Pre-Deployment of Personnel Involved in UN Stabilization Missions (2014), in a section entitled “What is international humanitarian law?”, states:
In the workshop on pre-deployment, we will show a brief audiovisual presentation as an overview of this topic. It is important to remember that international humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules that, for precisely humane reasons, seeks to limit the effects of armed conflicts. It protects people not involved or no longer involved in combat and limits the means and methods of warfare. IHL is often also called “law of war” and “law of armed conflict”.
Although during peacekeeping operations or missions we are not in a traditional war scenario, we are in a place where there are conflicts of another kind and our participation may require us to apply these rules. The United Nations is clear in establishing that peacekeeping personnel are subject to and must respect and enforce the rules of IHL.
9.1 BASIC HUMANITARIAN RIGHTS
– The right of protected persons (civilians, medical or religious persons) not to be attacked.
Uruguay’s Law on Cooperation with the ICC (2006) states:
26.2. Persons and objects affected by the war crimes set out in the present provision are persons and objects which international law protects in international or internal armed conflict.
26.3. The following are war crimes:
9. Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking direct part in hostilities.
In 2011, in a statement before the UN Security Council during an open debate on children and armed conflict, made partly on behalf of the Group of Friends of Children and Armed Conflict, including Uruguay, the deputy permanent representative of Canada stated:
Members of the Friends Group have reliably called on the [UN] Security Council to strengthen its protection framework even more and consistently called for all six grave violations committed against children in armed conflict to be included amongst the Security Council Resolution 1612 [of 2005] listing criteria. The Friends Group has supported a progressive approach in this regard and therefore commends the Security Council in filling an important gap in the child protection framework by including attacks against schools and hospitals as the latest trigger through the resolution it will adopt today [Resolution 1998 (2011)].
For the Friends Group, a new trigger such as this not only includes in the annexes to the Secretary General’s reports on children and armed conflict those parties to armed conflict that, in contravention of applicable international law, engage in attacks against schools and hospitals, but also those who engage in threats or attacks against schoolchildren, patients, educational or medical personnel.
In 2014, Uruguay’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a press release entitled “Uruguay Condemns the Attacks Against Schools and Civilian Targets in Gaza”, which stated:
The Government of the Eastern Republic of Uruguay deplores the continuation of the military operations in the Gaza Strip and expresses its greatest consternation at the despicable attack carried out by the Israeli armed forces against a UN school, which resulted in the killing of dozens of defenceless civilians sheltered in that place under the protection of the United Nations.
These dramatic events and their dire consequences for both societies … are clear violations of international law and international humanitarian law.
It’s unacceptable under any pretext for the civilian population to be attacked as a military objective, and … under international law, the death of women and children could be considered as a war crime that could fall under international jurisdiction.
These acts should stimulate reflections by the parties to the conflict to stop this escalation of violence and accept as a matter of urgency an unconditional and definitive ceasefire to the hostilities and proceed to an immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Gaza Strip.
In 2014, in a statement during the general debate of the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Uruguay stated:
Uruguay views with grave concern the situation in Syria, Libya, Gaza and Iraq and reiterates that any solution to the conflict must be a negotiated one.
Uruguay deplores violence in all its forms, condemns … the attacks using rocket and mortars launched from the Gaza Strip against the Israeli population, as well as the Israeli reprisals against the Gaza Strip.