Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Section A. The principle of distinction
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) states: “Commanders shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants.”
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states:
1. Distinction. The principle of distinction imposes an obligation on commanders to distinguish between legitimate targets and civilian objects and the civilian population. It is of primary importance when selecting targets.
2. This obligation is, of course, dependent on the quality of the information available to commanders at the time decisions are made. Commanders must make reasonable, good faith efforts to gather intelligence and to review the intelligence available to them.
In its chapter on targeting, the manual further states:
403. Distinction principle
1. To ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and civilian objects, commanders shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives.
411. Protection of civilians and civilian objects
1. The protection of civilians and civilian objects is a fundamental principle of the LOAC. Parties to a conflict have a duty to distinguish between civilians and combatants as well as between civilian objects and military objectives. Civilians are entitled to protection from the dangers arising from military operations. In conducting operations care should always be taken to spare civilians and civilian objects.