Practice Relating to Rule 7. The Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives
Section B. Attacks against military objectives
Canada’s LOAC Manual (2001) states: “‘Legitimate targets’ include combatants, unlawful combatants and military objectives.”
Canada’s LOAC Manual (1999) provides: “Military operations shall be directed only against legitimate targets. Military operations directed against such targets must also meet the requirement of proportionality discussed below.”
Canada’s Code of Conduct (2001) instructs soldiers: “Engage only opposing forces and military objectives”.
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.”
Canada’s Use of Force Manual (2008), in a section entitled “Principles and rules governing the use of force that directly relates to the conduct of an armed conflict”, states: “Targets shall be limited strictly to military objectives.”
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.”
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.