Practice Relating to Rule 147. Reprisals against Protected Objects
Section A. Civilian objects in general
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999), in a part dealing with targeting, provides: “Reprisals against civilians and civilian objects are prohibited.” It further provides: “civil defence buildings and materiel
, as well as shelters provided for the civilian population, are considered ‘civilian objects’ and shall not be attacked or subjected to reprisals”.
In a chapter entitled “Treatment of civilians in the hands of a party to the conflict or an occupying power” and, more specifically, in a section containing “provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories”, the manual refers to the 1949 Geneva Convention IV and states: “The following are expressly prohibited: … the taking of reprisals against protected persons and their property”.
In a part dealing with enforcement measures, the manual also states: “Reprisals against the following categories of persons and objects are prohibited: … f. civilian objects”.
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states in its chapter on targeting: “Reprisals against civilians and civilian objects are prohibited.”
The manual further states: “Civil defence buildings and materiel
, as well as shelters provided for the civilian population, are considered ‘civilian objects’ and shall not be attacked or subjected to reprisals.”
In its chapter on the treatment of civilians in the hands of a party to the conflict or an occupying power and, more specifically, in a section entitled “Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories”, the manual states:
[The 1949 Geneva Convention IV] prohibits taking any measure, which will cause physical suffering to protected persons or will lead to their extermination. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation or medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment of a protected person, but also to any other form of brutality, whether applied by civilians or by military personnel. The following are expressly prohibited:
d. the taking of reprisals against protected persons and their property.
In its chapter entitled “Preventative and enforcement measures and the role of protecting powers”, the manual further states:
4. Reprisals against the following categories of persons and objects are prohibited.
f. civilian objects;
5. Reprisals are permitted against combatants and against objects constituting military objectives.
At the CDDH, the representative of Canada, with respect to paragraph 4 of draft Article 46 (which became Article 51 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I), stated:
His delegation did not wish an unenforceable provision to be adopted, disrespect for which would lead to disrespect for the whole Protocol. His delegation could accept a prohibition on reprisals against civilians or the civilian population, but not on reprisals against civilian objects.
At the CDDH, Canada, reverting to a proposed amendment on the prohibition of reprisals against protected objects (sponsored by Egypt, Democratic Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Mauritania, Morocco, Qatar, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates and Yemen),
If it attempted to provide for a total prohibition of reprisals, the Committee would be drawing up a theoretically ideal document at the humanitarian level, but that such a prohibition would be based on the assumption that the Party or State in question would not retaliate, and it was doubtful whether such would be the case; there had been in fact abuses, not only on the pretext of reprisals, but also on the pretext of the law of war. The question was whether an attempt should be made to curb the victim’s desire for vengeance by formulating a rule, or whether that aspect could be left undecided. He thought it was better to lay down a rule.
In 1986, in a memorandum on Canada’s attitude to possible reservations with regard to the 1977 Additional Protocol I, the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs noted:
Under [the 1949 Geneva Conventions] … reprisals directed against the enemy civilian population or property in enemy controlled areas are permissible. [The 1977 Additional Protocol I] goes beyond the Geneva Conventions and prohibits reprisals directed against … civilian property under all circumstances.