Practice Relating to Rule 53. Starvation as a Method of Warfare
Sweden’s IHL Manual (1991) considers that the “prohibition of starvation of the civilian population if the intention is to kill and not primarily to force a capitulation”, as defined in Article 54 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, is part of customary international law.
The manual adds:
It is … established that, up to 1977, international law contained no express prohibition of starvation as a method of warfare. With this in mind, the new Article 54 of Additional Protocol I must be seen as an important milestone in the development of international humanitarian law. This Article provides an explicit prohibition against using starvation of civilian populations as a method of warfare.
At the CDDH, the Swedish delegate appealed “urgently to all delegations, particularly those of the Western and Others Group, to consider [Article 27 of the draft Additional Protocol II (now Article 14)] carefully and to adopt it”.
Sweden’s IHL Manual (1991) states:
Certain states have maintained that the prohibition against starvation shall apply without exception which would also mean its application against blockade in naval warfare. Other states have claimed that this method of warfare is the province of the international law of naval warfare, which, according to Article 49:3, shall not be affected by the new rules of Additional Protocol I. There is thus no consensus that the prohibition of starvation shall be considered to include maritime blockade.