Practice Relating to Rule 42. Works and Installations Containing Dangerous Forces
Section A. Attacks against works and installations containing dangerous forces and against military objectives located in their vicinity
Switzerland’s Military Manual (1984) states:
Works and installations containing dangerous forces, such as dams, dykes and nuclear power stations, must not be attacked if such attack may release dangerous forces and cause severe losses among the civilian population.
Switzerland’s Basic Military Manual (1987) states:
Installations whose destruction could cause severe losses among the civilian population, because such destruction could release dangerous forces, such as dykes, dams and nuclear power stations, must not be attacked.
The manual further provides that “an attack against works or installations containing dangerous forces in the knowledge that such attack will cause excessive loss of life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects” constitutes a grave breach of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.
Switzerland’s Aide-Memoire on the Ten Basic Rules of the Law of Armed Conflict (2005) states with regard to the protective sign of installations containing dangerous forces:
- Object that releases dangerous forces when destroyed (such as dams, embankments and nuclear power stations);
- Use objects for their intended purpose only;
- Protect objects against destruction through attack.
Prohibited is/are …
- Damage an object to such a degree that dangerous forces are released and subsequently threaten civilians;
- Use of an object for something other than its original purpose (e.g. abuse for combat support).
Switzerland’s Regulation on Legal Bases for Conduct during an Engagement (2005) states:
14 Protected objects
14.3 Installations containing dangerous forces
211 Works and installations containing dangerous forces, such as dams, dykes and nuclear power plants, may not be made the object of attack, even when they are military objectives, if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe losses among the civilian population.
214 Protecting and defending the installations mentioned above against acts of sabotage, terrorist attacks or unjustified intrusion are permitted. In such an event, the installations maintain their protected status, i.e. they do not become a legitimate military objective.
15 Methods of warfare
15.2 Prohibited methods of warfare
225 Indiscriminate attacks, i.e. attacks which cannot distinguish between protected persons/objects and military objectives, as well as attacks directed against protected persons/objects or acts of revenge are prohibited in any place and at any time.
17 Sanctions for violations of the international law of armed conflict
17.1 General provisions
237 The following in particular are criminal offences: … harmful acts against internationally protected persons and objects[.]
Switzerland’s ABC of International Humanitarian Law (2009) states:
International humanitarian law distinguishes between Civilian objects and Military objectives
, prohibiting acts of violence against the former. Other provisions provide special protection for certain specific civilian objects, some of which are expected to bear distinctive signs: … works and installations containing dangerous forces (e.g. nuclear power stations and dams). Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives.