Practice Relating to Rule 6. Civilians’ Loss of Protection from Attack
Section A. Direct participation in hostilities
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) states: “Civilians who take a direct part in hostilities (other than a levée en masse
) are unlawful combatants. They lose their protection as civilians and become legitimate targets for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.”
The manual further states that “participation in hostilities by non-combatants” is a violation of customary law and recognized as a war crime by the law of armed conflict.
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter entitled “Combatant Status”:
Civilians who take a direct part in hostilities (other than a levée en masse
) are unlawful combatants. They lose their protection as civilians and become legitimate targets for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
In its chapter on targeting, the manual states:
Unlawful combatants are legitimate targets for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities. Unlawful combatants include: a. civilians (except those who are lawful combatants because they are participating in levée en masse
In its chapter on air warfare, the manual further states:
The civilian population as a whole, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Civilians shall enjoy this protection unless and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
In its chapter on “War crimes, individual criminal liability and command responsibility”, the manual states that “participation in hostilities by non-combatants” is a violation of customary law and recognized as a war crime by the law of armed conflict.
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:
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. The potential for you to be confronted by these irregular opposing forces has increased as a result of the UN involvement in humanitarian operations. CF operations in Somalia, Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia and Haiti are examples of such operations. If you are involved in a peace support operation, your concern should not be whether a member of an opposing force wears a uniform, or is part of a well-established army, but whether or not that person poses a threat. In a peace support operation persons (including civilians) usually must do more than simply be in possession of weapons to be considered “opposing forces.” They must also act in a threatening manner toward you, or the persons and property you are tasked to protect. In an armed conflict, on the other hand, the enemy forces are opposing forces whether or not they pose an immediate threat.
Canada’s Use of Force Manual (2008) states:
Section II – Legal foundations
104. International law
Section IV – Principles and rules governing the use of force
112. Principles and rules governing the use of force that directly relates to the conduct of an armed conflict
1. Distinction. As a general rule civilians and civilian objects shall not be the object of attack (acts of violence against the adversary, whether in offence or defence). Targets shall be limited strictly to military objectives.
a. In so far as persons are concerned, only members of the enemy’s armed forces or persons taking a direct part in hostilities are lawful targets; …