Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Croatia’s LOAC Compendium (1991) states that a distinction must always be made between combatants and civilians.
Croatia’s Instructions on Basic Rules of IHL (1993) requires all relevant personnel to distinguish between combatants and civilians in order to protect the civilian population and civilian property.
Croatia’s LOAC Compendium (1991) includes armed forces among military objectives.
Croatia’s Commanders’ Manual (1992) states: “Combatants may be attacked.”
According to Croatia’s LOAC Compendium (1991), “attacks on the civilian population” constitute grave breaches and thus war crimes.
Croatia’s Commanders’ Manual (1992) and Instructions on Basic Rules of IHL (1993) emphasize that attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited.
Under Croatia’s Criminal Code (1997), it is a war crime to commit or order the commission of “an attack against the civilian population … [or] individual civilians”.
In the RA. R. case
in 1997, the District Court of Split in Croatia sentenced 39 people, both soldiers and commanders, to prison terms ranging from 5 to 20 years on charges which included attacks on civilians.
In 1992, in a letter to the President of the UN Security Council, Croatia denounced direct attacks against the civilian population and civilian facilities carried out by “Serbs from Bosnia and Herzegovina and … from the UN Protected Area territories in Croatia”. Croatia considered that “the only aim of such an aggression is the destruction of civilian population and destruction of civilian facilities”, adding that “such acts are contrary to the provisions of Articles 51 and 52 of Additional Protocol I”.
The Report on the Practice of Croatia states that it is Croatia’s opinio juris
that the duty not to attack civilians is part of customary international law.