Practice Relating to Rule 1. The Principle of Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Section C. Attacks against civilians
In 2001, in the Ballestas case, the Colombian Government requested the preventive detention and extradition of a Colombian citizen belonging to the armed group known as the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army) for the crimes of rebellion, kidnapping, wrongful death, seizure and diversion of aircraft. The Chamber of Criminal Appeals of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice stated:
Attacks on innocent people who have no relationship to the interests at stake or to the problem, and who have given no provocation in word or deed, are not justified even in a military war. … [These are] governed by laws that prohibit attacks on civilians or persons uninvolved in the conflict … To conclude, in view of the foregoing, aggression is selective even in conventional warfare between military powers, so as not to harm the innocent.
The tribunal held:
It is a firm and incontrovertible fact that political armed struggle must be governed by the laws of war. As a result, attacks against innocent [people] … are absolutely unjustified, even where a political motive is claimed.
Thus: if such an attack against innocent [persons] … is carried out with such a violence and malicious intent that it causes unnecessary suffering, havoc and terror
, it would [constitute the offence of] indiscriminate terrorism
, namely [those acts] that are not selective when choosing their targets and expressly target the innocent.
[emphasis in original]