United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 12. Definition of Indiscriminate Attacks
Section A. Attacks which are not directed at a specific military objective
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) states:
The extent to which a weapon discriminates between military objectives and protected persons and objects depends usually on the manner in which the weapon is employed rather than on the design qualities of the weapon itself. Where a weapon is designed so that it can be used against military objectives, its employment in a different manner, such as against the civilian population, does not make the weapon itself unlawful.
The US Naval Handbook (1995) states: “Any weapon may be set to an unlawful purpose when it is directed against noncombatants and other protected persons and objects.”
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states that indiscriminate attacks include “attacks that are not directed at a specific military objective (e.g., Iraqi SCUD missile attacks on Israeli and Saudi cities during the Persian Gulf War)”.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United States denounced the continued indiscriminate launching of surface-to-surface missiles at civilian targets.
In 1992, in its final report to Congress on the conduct of the Gulf War, the US Department of Defense accused Iraq of “indiscriminate Scud missile attacks”.
Prior to the adoption in 1992 of UN General Assembly Resolution 47/37 on the protection of the environment in times of armed conflict, Jordan and the United States submitted a memorandum to the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly entitled “International Law Providing Protection to the Environment in Times of Armed Conflict”. The memorandum stated:
It is a war crime to employ acts of violence not directed at specific military objectives, to employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective, or to employ a means or method of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by the law of armed conflict.
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons (WHO) case
in 1994, the United States stated: “It is unlawful to conduct any indiscriminate attack, including those employing weapons that are not … directed at a military objective.”
In submitting the 1996 Amended Protocol II to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons to Congress for advice and consent to ratification, the US President stated that the prohibition of indiscriminate use of mines, booby-traps and other devices as defined in Article 3(8)(a) of the Protocol “is already a feature of customary international law that is applicable to all weapons”.
According to the Report on US Practice, it is the opinio juris
of the United States that indiscriminate attacks include attacks which are not directed at a military objective.