Practice Relating to Rule 145. Reprisals
Section A. Definition and purpose of reprisals
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 2 (Instruction of second-year trainee officers):
III.1. Collective responsibility
Collective responsibility of a belligerent party for a violation of the law of armed conflicts [LOAC] takes several forms.
- Reprisal measures taken by one belligerent party constitute the second type of collective responsibility. This is an intentional violation of a given rule of the law of armed conflicts, committed by one of the parties to the conflict with the aim of forcing the authorities of the adverse party to end a policy of violation of that same rule or another provision.
Customary law regards measures of reprisal taken by a belligerent party as one of the lawful means intended to enforce the application of the law.
However, since these measures often lead to an escalation of the violence and generally strike persons who are not the true culprits, the law of reprisals of belligerent parties has progressively been restricted. Thus, reprisal measures against protected persons and objects are the subject of an express prohibition in the four 1949 Geneva Conventions.
The main interest of the diverse modalities relating to the responsibility of the State probably lies in their dissuasive effect. The fact that every violation of the law of armed conflicts engages the responsibility of the State can prompt the authorities to respect the provisions of the LOAC.