United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 51. Public and Private Property in Occupied Territory
Section B. Immovable public property in occupied territory
The UK Military Manual (1958) provides that, once a defended locality has surrendered, “it is not permissible to burn public buildings … in such a place merely because it was defended”.
The manual also states:
Real property belonging to the State which is of a military character, such as strong points, arsenals, dockyards, magazines, barracks and stores, as well as railways, canals, bridges, piers, and wharves, airfields and their installations, remains at the absolute disposal of the Occupant until the end of the war. Such buildings may, however, be damaged or destroyed only when such acts are rendered absolutely necessary by military operations …
Real property belonging to the State which is essentially of a civil or non-military character, such as public buildings and offices, land, forests, parks, farms, and mines, may not be damaged unless their destruction is imperatively demanded by the exigencies of war. The Occupant becomes the administrator and usufructuary of the property, but he must not exercise his rights in such a wasteful or negligent way as will decrease its value. He has no right of disposal or sale.
The Occupant may, however, let or utilize public land and buildings, sell the crops on public land, cut and sell timber and work the mines. But he must not make a contract or lease extending beyond the conclusion of the war, and the cutting or mining must not exceed what is necessary or usual. It must not constitute abusive exploitation.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
Military land and buildings
11.85. Military land and buildings belonging to the state, such as supply depots, arsenals, dockyards and barracks, as well as airfields, ports, railways, canals, bridges, piers, and their associated installations, remain at the disposal of the occupying power until the end of the conflict. Structures of this type may only be destroyed or damaged if that is imperatively demanded by military operations.
Civilian land and buildings
11.86 Land and buildings that belong to the state but that are essentially civilian or non-military in character, such as public buildings, land, forests, parks, farms and coal mines, may not be damaged or destroyed unless that is imperatively necessitated by military operations. The occupying power is the administrator, user and, in a sense, guardian of the property. It must not waste, neglect or abusively exploit these assets so as to decrease their value. The occupying power has no right of disposal or sale but may let or use public land and buildings, sell crops, cut and sell timber and work mines. It must not enter into commitments extending beyond the conclusion of the occupation and the cutting or mining must not exceed what is necessary or usual.
Land and buildings of local authorities
11.87. Exceptionally, the property of local authorities (including, for example, that of provincial, county, municipal and parochial authorities) is treated as if it were private. Similarly, property of institutions dedicated to religion, charity, education, art and science is also treated as private property, even if it belongs to the state. The seizure, destruction or damage of such property, historic monuments and works of art or science is forbidden.
11.87.1. Examples of buildings in this latter category include places of worship, alms-houses, hospitals, schools, museums and libraries. If it is cultural property, it is protected anyway. Use of property mentioned in paragraph 11.87 for other, humanitarian purposes, such as the treatment of the wounded and sick in a church, is quite proper if suitable alternative accommodation cannot be found. Cultural property is not to be used for military purposes.