Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Section C. Attacks against civilians
Sweden’s IHL Manual (1991) states: “A distinction shall always be made between persons participating in hostilities and who are thereby legitimate objectives, and members of the civilian population, who may not constitute objectives in warfare.”
Sweden’s Penal Code (1962), as amended in 1998, provides that “attacks on civilians” constitute a crime against international law.
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case
in 1995, Sweden stated: “Under the principle of distinction, an attack on a civilian population or civilian property is prohibited.”
In 2003, in an answer to a written question in Parliament regarding the situation in Colombia, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated:
I find it extraordinarily serious that all three major illegal armed organisations, i.e. FARC-EP [Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia-Ejercito del Pueblo], ELN [Ejército de Liberación Nacional] and the paramilitary groups gathered around AUC [Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia], have committed and are committing serious assaults on the civilian population, in contravention of international humanitarian law.
In 2005, in an answer to a question in Parliament regarding the parliamentary election in Chechnya, Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated: “All violence targeted at civilians is indefensible.”
In 2007, with regard to the situation in Gaza, the Swedish Ministers for Foreign Affairs and for International Development Cooperation stated: “Attacks against civilians are in contravention of international law.”
In 2007, in a speech given at the EU Africa Summit, the Prime Minister of Sweden stated: “No quest for stability can justify … the targeting of civilians in conflict. Human suffering and violations against civilians must come to an end in places like Darfur and Somalia.”
In the fight against ISIL and terrorism, the Syrian regime must contribute by ending its attacks on civilians and committing to a genuine political transition. Let us not forget that the Syrian regime is responsible for the overwhelming part of the atrocities committed in Syria. Atrocities which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, and which cannot be tolerated by the international community.