Practice Relating to Rule 37. Open Towns and Non-Defended Localities
Section C. Attacks on open towns and non-defended localities
France’s LOAC Teaching Note (2000) includes non-defended localities among the zones that are specially protected by IHL. It states that, while occupation of non-defended localities is permitted, attacks against such localities are prohibited, provided they are completely demilitarized.
France’s LOAC Manual (2001) includes undefended localities in the list of specially protected objects and states that it is prohibited for the parties to a conflict to attack them by any means whatsoever.
The manual also prohibits attacks on open towns.
France’s Penal Code (1992), as amended in 2010, states in its section on war crimes related to international armed conflict: “Attacking or bombarding, by whatever means, towns, villages, dwellings or buildings which are undefended and which are not military objectives is punishable by life imprisonment.”
The Report on the Practice of France states that attacks against protected zones are prohibited.