Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
In 2004, in a report to Parliament on Finland’s human rights policy, Finland stated:
In an armed conflict, the individual is protected not only by human rights law but also by the rules of international humanitarian law. The rules of humanitarian law are essentially based on two basic principles: the applicability of IHL to all armed conflicts irrespective of the reason of the conflict, and the distinction between combatants and civilians.
The annual report of the Secretary-General paints a gloomy picture of the situation around the world for children in armed conflict. ISIL has been listed as violating all triggers of violence against children, a result of their appalling atrocities. In Syria, the systematic use of indiscriminate aerial weapons, such as barrel bombs, account for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties, including children. This cannot be allowed to continue. And during hostilities in Gaza last summer, civilians, including children, bore the brunt of the suffering. At least 540 Palestinian children were killed … The scale of the impact on children was unprecedented and unacceptable.
These facts … are utterly disturbing and raise serious concern about the observance of the rules of international humanitarian law, including the [principle] of distinction … and respect for international human rights law.
Finland’s Criminal Code (1889), as amended in 2008, provides that any person who “attacks civilian populations, civilians not taking part in hostilities or civilian targets” shall be “sentenced for a war crime
to imprisonment for at least one year or for life”.
(emphasis in original)