Practice Relating to Rule 89. Violence to Life
France’s Disciplinary Regulations (1975), as amended, prohibits attacks on the lives and physical integrity of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, prisoners and civilians, including murder.
France’s LOAC Summary Note (1992) provides that all persons hors de combat
have the right to respect for their lives. It further states that “wilful killing” is a war crime.
France’s LOAC Teaching Note (2000) provides: “It is prohibited to … kill or injure an adversary … who is hors de combat
.” It further states that “wilful killing” is a grave breach of the law of armed conflict and is a war crime.
France’s LOAC Manual (2001) provides that “attacks upon the life and physical and mental well-being of persons, such as murder” constitute war crimes.
The manual also states that wilful killing and attempts on the physical integrity or health of the wounded and sick are war crimes.
It further states that one of the three main principles common to IHL and human rights is the principle of inviolability, which guarantees every human being the right to respect for his or her life.
The manual further states that the execution of hostages is expressly prohibited by the law of armed conflict and has been a war crime since 1949.
The manual also provides that “practices of massive and systematic summary executions” constitute war crimes.
The manual refers to common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and stipulates that the “carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples” is prohibited.
Under France’s Penal Code (1992), “killing members of the group” constitutes genocide when “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group”.
France’s Penal Code (1992), as amended in 2010, states in its section on war crimes common to international and non-international armed conflicts:
Wilfully committing violence to the life or to the physical or mental integrity of a person protected by the international law of armed conflict pursuant to the laws and customs of war and to international humanitarian law … is an aggravated offence.
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case
in 1995, France stated that the right to life was not absolute and that an armed conflict necessarily entailed attempts on life. It added that Article 15(2) of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights and the travaux préparatoires
of Article 6 of the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recognized this.
The instructions given to the French armed forces for the conduct of Opération Mistral, simulating a military operation under the right of self-defence or a mandate of the UN Security Council, state that persons not participating in hostilities (particularly the civilian population) have the right to respect for their lives.
In a white paper on “Defence and National Security” published in 2008, France’s Ministry of Defence stated:
The sovereignty of a State consists, first of all, of protecting its population. Neither the principle of non-interference nor the one of sovereignty can be evoked by a State in order to justify atrocities such as massacres and other massive violations of international humanitarian law.
In 2009, the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of France, in a statement calling for the respect of international humanitarian law, which provided examples of serious violations that had recently occurred in several armed conflicts around the world, noted:
“Modern” war disgusts us in the tragic consequences it has for civilians.
How could we not be horrified at the sight of bodies, atrociously maimed or burned; the bodies of women, men and children lying in the smoking ruins of their homes …
Somalia, Congo, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Darfur, Gaza: this depressing litany of conflicts with their multitude of innocent civilian victims swept away by the storms of war must not however leave us indifferent.