Practice Relating to Rule 52. Pillage
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) provides for a general prohibition of pillage under the heading “Protection of the civilian population”.
The manual also prohibits pillage in occupied territories.
Germany’s IHL Manual (1996) prohibits plunder.
Germany’s Soldiers’ Manual (2006) states: “Reprisals against the civilian population are prohibited, likewise taking of hostages, collective penalties, pillage as well as measures of intimidation or terrorization.”
Germany’s Law Introducing the International Crimes Code (2002) punishes anyone who, in connection with an international or non-international armed conflict, “pillages … property of the adverse party”.
In the Jorgić case
before Germany’s Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf in 1997, the accused was convicted of genocide committed in the context of the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. In 1999, the Federal Court of Justice confirmed the judgment of first instance in most parts. Both courts referred to acts of plunder as part of the general background in which the genocide took place.
In 2010, in the DRC case, Germany’s Federal Court of Justice decided to remand in pre-trial custody a national of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who had been living in Germany. The Court considered the definition of pillage as a war crime under Germany’s International Crimes Code and held:
It is highly likely that … members of the FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] committed war crimes against property and other rights under § 9 para. 1 VStGB [Germany’s International Crimes Code] by taking food and other objects from the civilian population, thus committing pillage in the context of an international or non-international armed conflict. Pursuant to the description in § 125 a, sentence 2, no. 4 StGB [Germany’s Penal Code] … , pillage comprises the taking advantage of a general situation to steal movable objects or to extract movable objects from another person with the objective of appropriation … . As a result the term also comprises all forms of unlawful acquisition of property in an armed conflict. It can be committed in the form of isolated acts of individual fighters or as part of an organized appropriation and systematic exploitation of an occupied or militarily controlled area.
In 1991, the majority of political parties in the German Parliament vigorously condemned violations of human rights and “other crimes” committed during the civil war in Sudan. Pillage was among the “crimes” mentioned.
In 1995, during a debate in the UN Security Council concerning the situation in the former Yugoslavia, the German representative expressed his concern about reports of looting in the Krajina region. He urged the Croatian Government to do its utmost to stop these acts.
Under Germany’s Penal Code (1998), pillage by civilians would be covered under the provisions relative to theft.