Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case
in 1995, India concluded: “The use of nuclear weapons in an armed conflict is unlawful being contrary to the conventional as well as customary international law because such a use cannot distinguish between the combatants and non-combatants.”
India’s Army Training Note (1995) defines the term “terrorist” as:
a person who indulges in wanton killing of persons or involves in violence or in the disruption of services or means of communications essential to the community or in damaging property with a view to putting the public or any section of the public in fear, or affecting adversely the harmony between different religious, social, linguistic groups or the sovereignty and integrity of a nation.
According to the Report on the Practice of India, this definition is “intended to help the armed forces to identify the ‘terrorists’ who may be treated as combatants if the situation can be likened to an internal conflict”.
India’s Army Act (1950) defines the term “enemy” as including “all armed mutineers, armed rebels, armed rioters, pirates and any person in arms against whom it is the duty of any person subject to military law to act”.
According to the Report on the Practice of India, “any person in arms and acting against governmental authority” or “who contributes towards the furtherance of armed conflict” would fall within the definition of enemy and lose protection.
In 2008, in a statement on the situation in Sri Lanka, India’s Minister of External Affairs stated:
The situation in Sri Lanka remains a matter of grave concern to us in India. We are particularly worried about the humanitarian effect of the continuing conflict on civilians who have been caught up in circumstances not of their making. It is essential that … they be immune from attacks.
In 2008, in a statement in Parliament on the situation in Sri Lanka, India’s Minister of External Affairs stated:
The situation in Sri Lanka is of serious concern to the Government, in particular the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the northern part of Sri Lanka. We are concerned about the plight of the civilians caught in the hostilities … We have emphasised to the Sri Lankan Government that the safety and security of the civilians must be safeguarded at all costs.
In 2012, in an explanation of a vote at the 19th Special Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Syria and the recent killings in El-Houla, India’s Ministry of External Affairs stated: “We strongly condemn the El-Houla incident, which has resulted in [the] death of over a hundred innocent civilians[,] including women and children[,] and have therefore intended to vote for this resolution [UN Human Rights Council Resolution A/HRC/RES/S-19/1 of 1 June 2012].”
In 2012, in a statement during a UN Security Council open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the permanent representative of India stated: “[T]he principle of protection of civilians must be applied in a uniform manner to all parties to a conflict.”
In 2012, in a statement during the UN Security Council debate on Libya and the International Criminal Court, the permanent representative of India stated: “India strongly condemns all acts of violence committed against civilians.”