Practice Relating to Rule 53. Starvation as a Method of Warfare
Australia’s Commanders’ Guide (1994) notes that the 1977 Additional Protocol I “prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare … Military operations involving collateral deprivation are not unlawful as long as the object is not to starve the civilian population.”
Australia’s Defence Force Manual (1994) states: “Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited … This includes starving civilians or causing them to move away.”
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states: “Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited … This includes starving civilians or causing them to move away.”
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
Australia’s War Crimes Act (1945) considers “any war crime within the meaning of the instrument of appointment of the Board of Inquiry [set up to investigate war crimes committed by enemy subjects]” as a war crime, including deliberate starvation of civilians.
Australia’s Criminal Code Act (1995), as amended to 2007, states with respect to serious war crimes that are committed in the course of an international armed conflict:
268.67 War crime – starvation as a method of warfare
(1) A person (the perpetrator) commits an offence if:
(a) the perpetrator uses as a method of warfare:
(i) any intentional deprivation of civilians of objects indispensable to their survival; or
(ii) without limiting subparagraph (i) – the wilful impeding of relief supplies for civilians; and
(b) if subparagraph (a)(ii) applies – the relief supplies are provided for under the Geneva Conventions; and
(c) the perpetrator’s conduct takes place in the context of, and is associated with, an international armed conflict.
Penalty: Imprisonment for 25 years.
(2) Strict liability applies to paragraph (1)(b).
Australia’s ICC (Consequential Amendments) Act (2002) incorporates in the Criminal Code the war crimes defined in the 1998 ICC Statute, including “starvation as a method of warfare” in international armed conflicts.