Yugoslavia, Socialist Federal Republic of
Practice Relating to Rule 145. Reprisals
Section A. Definition and purpose of reprisals
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s Military Manual (1988) states:
Reprisal, under the provisions of this military manual, means an act which is contrary to the laws of war, but whose unlawfulness is abolished because it is undertaken in response to acts of the enemy who does not respect the laws of war, in order to force him to stop such violations, and to respect the laws of war in future.
In another provision entitled “Aim and duration of reprisals”, the manual states: “The aim of reprisals is to prevent the enemy from repeating violations of the laws of war and to force him to respect the laws of war.”
The manual further provides: “The armed forces of the SFRY [Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] shall undertake reprisals against the enemy exceptionally and temporarily … Reprisals shall not be undertaken for every violation of the laws of war by the enemy but only in response to preceding, serious and repeated violations.” Moreover, it states: “The taking of hostages is prohibited in reprisal as well.”
In 1991, notwithstanding the 1991 Memorandum of Understanding on the Application of IHL between Croatia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, according to which these States agreed that hostilities should be conducted in accordance with, inter alia, Articles 48–58 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) issued a general warning to the attention of the Croatian authorities to the effect that “a number of impudent crimes has been committed against the members of the Y.P.A. … Family members of the Y.P.A. are being maltreated, persecuted and destroyed in many different ways. This cannot be tolerated any longer.” The YPA therefore warned:
1. For every attacked and seized object of the [YPA] – an object of vital importance for the Republic of Croatia will be destroyed immediately.
2. For every attacked and occupied garrison – an object of vital importance to the town in which the garrison is located will be destroyed. This is, at the same time, a warning to civilian persons to abandon such settlement in time.
According to the Report on the Practice of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, “this warning calls for detailed analysis, but arguably it can be classified as a threat of the use of belligerent reprisals”.