Yugoslavia, Socialist Federal Republic of
Practice Relating to Rule 148. Reprisals in Non-International Armed Conflicts
At the CDDH, the delegation of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in its explanation of vote on draft Article 10 bis
of the Additional Protocol II, stated: “It goes without saying … that reprisals are already forbidden against protected persons and objects, that is to say, against persons and objects in the power of the adversary.” Moreover, it expressed its view that “this rule of customary law … was codified in 1949 in the Geneva Conventions”. Nevertheless, it stated that the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia still felt that “reprisals on the field of battle against an unscrupulous adversary who uses illicit methods and means of combat remain permissible under customary law, as a last resort against lawless conduct”. Nonetheless, the representative stated: “It seems both unjust and pointless to make non-combatants, women and children, pay for breaches for which they are in no way responsible.”
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 to abide by the prohibition of reprisals contained in Articles 51 and 52 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, in 1991, the Yugoslav People’s Army (YPA) issued a general warning to the attention of the Croatian authorities, stating: “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 that:
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. In any event, a question may be raised whether the approach of the YPA Supreme Command reflected the position that belligerent reprisals may be freely carried out in internal conflicts as well, without the IHL restrictions that apply to international conflicts. The text of the Supreme Command warning leads to this conclusion.