United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 7. The Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives
Section C. Attacks against civilian objects in general
The UK Military Manual (1958) provides:
In defended towns and localities modern methods of bombardment will inevitably destroy many buildings and sites which are not military objectives. Such destruction, if incidental to the bombardment of military objectives is not unlawful. For example the bombardment of a war factory area may well destroy the houses of workers living in that area. If, on the other hand, bombardment is directed solely against a non-military objective, it is unlawful.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) provides that it is forbidden to attack “civilian objects as a deliberate method of warfare”.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) provides: “The civilian population and individual civilians must not be attacked and must be protected against the dangers arising from military operations; civilian objects are similarly protected.”
In its chapter on the conduct of hostilities, under the heading “Immunity of Civilian Objects”, the manual quotes from Article 52(1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I: “Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals”.
In a footnote to this quotation, the manual states: “The UK has reserved the right to take reprisal action against civilian objects in certain circumstances.”
In its chapter on internal armed conflict, the manual states: “Civilian property must not be attacked.”
Under the UK ICC Act (2001), it is a punishable offence to commit a war crime as defined in Article 8(2)(b)(ii) of the 1998 ICC Statute.
At the CDDH, following the adoption of Article 47 of the draft Additional Protocol I (now Article 52), the United Kingdom stated that it “welcomed the reaffirmation, in paragraph 2, of the customary law rule that civilian objects must not be the direct object of attack”.
In 1996, during a debate in the UN Security Council on the situation in Lebanon, the United Kingdom stated that attacks directed at civilian targets must be put to an end.
In 2006, in a written answer to a question concerning, inter alia
, “the implications under the Geneva Conventions of the targeting by Israel of civilian facilities and infrastructure in Gaza”, the UK Minister of State for the Middle East, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, stated: “We are opposed to the targeting of civilian facilities and call upon Israel to respect international law.”