Practice Relating to Rule 145. Reprisals
Section A. Definition and purpose of reprisals
Switzerland’s Basic Military Manual (1987) states: “Reprisals are measures contrary to international law taken by one of the belligerents to punish unlawful acts committed by the enemy Power and to bring them to a halt.”
Switzerland’s Aide-Memoire on the Ten Basic Rules of the Law of Armed Conflict (2005) states: “All forms of retaliation are prohibited.”
Switzerland’s Regulation on Legal Bases for Conduct during an Engagement (2005) states: “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.”
(emphasis in original)
During discussions on reprisals in Committee I of the CDDH, Switzerland stated that it supported the French amendment on a prohibition of reprisals “in principle”.
In 1988, in a note on the prohibition on the use of chemical weapons, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs stated: “The 1925 [Geneva Gas] Protocol declares a custom.” It added: “The 1925 [Geneva Gas] Protocol and custom prohibit the first use of chemical weapons and accept the lawfulness of second use only in the case of reprisals in kind.”
Switzerland’s ABC of International Humanitarian Law (2009) states:
International humanitarian law does not include any general prohibition of reprisals. There are however numerous provisions that prohibit specific types of reprisal, in particular reprisals against Protected persons
such as Civilians
, the wounded and Prisoners of war
. Also prohibited are reprisals against certain specific objects such as cultural property and places of worship, the natural environment, and installations that may cause a dangerous situation to occur (e.g. nuclear power stations and dams).