Practice Relating to Rule 7. The Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives
Section A. The principle of distinction
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) provides: “It is particularly prohibited to employ means or methods which are intended or of a nature … to injure military objectives, civilians, or civilian objects without distinction.”
In 1983, in a statement before the Lower House of Parliament, a German Minister of State pointed out that the principle of distinction between civilian objects and military objectives was one of the five basic principles of the law of armed conflict and that it applied equally to the attacker and the attacked.
In an explanatory memorandum submitted to the German Parliament in 1990 in the context of the ratification procedure of the 1977 Additional Protocols, the German Government expressed the opinion that the principle of distinction between civilian objects and military targets enshrined in Article 48 of Additional Protocol I was a well-established rule of customary law, binding on all States.
While the core challenges in the protection of civilians identified in the previous reports of the Secretary-General still need our sustained attention, the new report also identifies several protection policy priorities that need to be explored. In particular the following “emerging” issues would benefit from our attention, and the Group of Friends stands ready to act as a platform to advance them. …
… [O]n the issue of lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), the Group is of the view that further discussions are needed and it welcomes the fact that the issue will be examined in Geneva in May 2014, in the framework of the CCW [Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons]. The Group hopes that such discussions will also examine the issue with due consideration to the protection of civilians as part of a comprehensive debate including legal, military operational, technological and ethical perspectives. In time discussion should focus on the relevance of such systems to the protection of civilians, in particular in the context of IHL and with regard to the principles of distinction, precaution and proportionality.