Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Section B. Attacks against combatants
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) states: “Combatants are legitimate targets and may be attacked.”
Canada’s Code of Conduct (2001) requires Canadian forces to “engage only opposing forces and military objectives”.
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states:
406. Definition of legitimate targets
1. “Legitimate targets” include combatants, unlawful combatants and military objectives.
1. Combatants are legitimate targets and may be attacked unless they have been captured, surrendered, expressed a clear intention to surrender, or are hors de combat (i.e., out of combat), provided they refrain from hostile acts and do not attempt to escape …
409. Airborne troops
1. Airborne troops are combatants and therefore legitimate targets. They may be attacked during their descent by parachute from aircraft.
Rule 1 of Canada’s Code of Conduct (2005) instructs Canadian Forces (CF) personnel: “Engage only opposing forces and military objectives.”
The Code of Conduct further explains:
1. Rule # 1 is the cornerstone of the Law of Armed Conflict. It is consistent with and in fact reflects two of the Principles of War, namely “selection and maintenance of the aim” and “economy of effort.” Any deviation from the military aim jeopardizes the mission. Thus, whether you are involved in defensive or offensive operations, your effort must be directed toward the continued maintenance of the aim. It would be considered a waste of resources to engage forces that are not hostile or that have been rendered incapable of further hostilities, or to attack objectives or other objects not used for a military purpose. It is unlawful as well as unsound from an operational point of view.
3. Force used during operations must be directed against opposing forces and military objectives. Therefore, civilians not taking part in hostilities must not be targeted. Rule #1 not only makes sense morally but also helps to ensure the most efficient use of military resources. In simple terms, “warriors fight warriors.”
5. An “opposing force” is any individual or group of individuals who pose a threat to you or your mission. It is sometimes difficult to identify who the opposing forces are. At one time most armed conflict involved organized armed forces. However, since World War II an increasing number of conflicts involve paramilitary, irregular or poorly organized armed groups. Sometimes these groups are fighting for ethnic or religious reasons. Often members of such paramilitary or irregular armed groups do not wear uniforms or operate in organized units. … In an armed conflict … the enemy forces are opposing forces whether or not they pose an immediate threat.
Canada’s Use of Force Manual (2008) states:
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, Canada stated:
It is the understanding of the Government of Canada in relation to Article 52 that … the first sentence of paragraph 2 of the Article is not intended to, nor does it, deal with the question of incidental or collateral damage resulting from an attack directed against a military objective.
At the CDDH, Canada stated that the first sentence of Article 47(2) of the draft Additional Protocol I (now Article 52(2)) “prohibits only attacks that could be directed against non-military objectives. It does not deal with the result of a legitimate attack on military objectives and incidental damage that such attack may cause.”