United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 36. Demilitarized Zones
Section B. Attacks on demilitarized zones
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) states:
Doubtless the creation of [safety or demilitarized] zones would be one of the most effective measures to enhance protection of one’s own civilian population, and if the conditions required to make a zone were fulfilled and maintained, virtually all civilian casualties would be avoided in this zone.
The US Air Force Commander’s Handbook (1980), in a section entitled “Neutralized and Demilitarized Zones”, provides:
By agreement, the parties to a conflict may establish certain zones where civilians, the sick and wounded, or other noncombatants may gather to be safe from attack.
A party to conflict cannot establish such a zone by itself; neutralized zones need only be respected if established by agreement between the parties, either in oral or written, or by parallel declarations. Such an agreement may be concluded either before or during hostilities.
United States forces need not respect such a zone unless the United States has agreed to respect it. Even in an unrecognized zone, of course, only legitimate military objectives … may be attacked.
The US Naval Handbook (1995) provides: “An agreed demilitarized zone is also exempt from bombardment.”
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states: “An agreed demilitarized zone is also exempt from bombardment.”
In 1987, the Deputy Legal Adviser of the US Department of State affirmed: “We support the principle that attacks shall not be made against appropriately declared or agreed demilitarized zones.”
The Report on US Practice considers that US opinio juris
generally conforms to the rules and conditions prescribed in Article 60 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.