Practice Relating to Rule 97. Human Shields
Côte d’Ivoire’s Teaching Manual (2007) provides in Book III, Volume 1 (Instruction of first-year trainee officers):
IV.3.2. The civilian population staying
The civilian population can choose to stay in a town under siege. In this case, the defenders have considerable responsibilities as regards protection. They must ensure that the civilian population is removed from the vicinity of military objectives and is not used as a human shield.
If the civilians do not leave the town under siege, this does not signify that the commander who directs the attack is dispensed from his duties to take all the usual precautions listed above. For all these reasons, a ceasefire allowing for evacuation seems to constitute a logical solution. Sure, violators could consider that it is in their interest to hold back the civilian population, or parts of that population, to serve as human shields, or to elicit the sympathy of international opinion regarding the humanitarian situation of the population and thereby to discredit the enemy. Nevertheless, the force leading the attack can easily thwart these proceedings by respecting the law, giving warnings, giving time for an evacuation in the form of a ceasefire, and by ensuring that the civilians are granted passage in safe conditions towards a protected zone or place.
In Book III, Volume 2 (Instruction of second-year trainee officers), the Teaching Manual provides: “Geneva Convention IV prohibits using the civilian population as a shield to protect certain regions or installations (militarily generally important) against attacks by the enemy.”
In Book IV (Instruction of heads of division and company commanders), the Teaching Manual provides:
Chapter 3. Protection
No prisoner of war may be used to render, by his presence, certain points or areas immune from military operations.
Chapter 4. Methods and means of warfare
I.2.7. Use of protected persons to shield an objective from attacks
The use of protected persons, such as civilians or prisoners of war, to shield legitimate objectives from attack is prohibited.
Côte d’Ivoire’s Penal Code (1981), as amended in 2015, states:
Whoever commits a war crime is punished with life imprisonment.
War crimes are:
2 - other serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, within the established framework of international law, namely, any of the following acts:
- utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations;
Protected persons referred to in article 139 are in particular:
1- civilian or military wounded, sick or shipwrecked;
2- civilians in the power of the enemy;
3- persons who do not take part directly or who no longer take part in hostilities;
4- medical and religious personnel, whether civilian or military;
5- persons deprived of their liberty for reasons related to the armed conflict, whether they are interned or detained.