Practice Relating to Rule 53. Starvation as a Method of Warfare
Section B. Sieges that cause starvation
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers):
IV.3. During a siege operation
… The law which applies to siege operations is essentially only a combination of elements already addressed. Thus, in case of attack, the rules governing offensive operations apply. In the case of defence, the rules covering defensive operations apply.
The key aspects are described below.
IV.3.2. The civilian population staying
If the civilians do not leave the town under siege, this does not signify that the commander who directs the attack is dispensed from his duties to take all the usual precautions listed above. For all these reasons, a ceasefire allowing for evacuation seems to constitute a logical solution. Sure, violators could consider that it is in their interest to hold back the civilian population, or parts of that population, to serve as human shields, or to elicit the sympathy of international opinion regarding the humanitarian situation of the population and thereby to discredit the enemy. Nevertheless, the force leading the attack can easily thwart these proceedings by respecting the law, giving warnings, giving time for an evacuation in the form of a ceasefire, and by ensuring that the civilians are granted passage in safe conditions towards a protected zone or place.
The general prohibition of starvation as a method of warfare against the civilian population implies that consignments of food and medical supplies, drinking water and other objects indispensable for its survival are not impeded, under the condition that they are distributed only to the civilian population of the town under siege and not to armed forces defending it. This rule completely prohibits the strategies traditionally employed in sieges, because the besieger often starved the population of enemy towns.