Practice Relating to Rule 15. The Principle of Precautions in Attack
Section B. Avoidance or minimization of incidental damage
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands states: “Collateral damage to civilian objects must be avoided as far as possible.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “All practically feasible precautionary measures must also be taken when choosing means and methods, in order to avoid collateral damage to cultural property and in any case to limit it, as far as possible.”
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
1044. In selecting targets and/or preparing or executing attacks, care must be taken to direct such attacks only against military objectives, and to limit that collateral damage as far as possible. If necessary, attacks must be cancelled, halted or suspended. If circumstances permit, a warning should be given before an attack that might also affect the civilian population.
1045. Participants in an internal armed conflict should also take all possible measures to protect the civilian population against the consequences of attack.
1046. The above means that participants must ask themselves where they may and may not position fighters or equipment. They should make sure that they are not attacking civilians or civilian objects, but military objectives. They should not attack if the collateral damage is excessive in relation to the expected military advantage.
In its chapter on peace operations, the manual states:
1219. Rules to minimize collateral damage can also be found in the RoE [Rules of Engagement]. However broadly the RoE are drafted, each participating country is also bound by the international conventions which it has ratified …
1221. Operations must be carried out … without disruption to the civilian population and civilian objects. The population is expected to cooperate with or consent to the operation, and not to resist the activities of the peace force. This means that the planning and execution of operations and actions must pay careful attention to the manner in which the peace force fulfils its mission and what degree of force is used. Damage to infrastructure and civilian casualties must be avoided or, in any case, kept to a minimum. Damage to civilian objects must in no case be excessive in relation to the purpose to be achieved.
According to the Government of the Netherlands, commanders have to take all the precautionary measures required by Article 57 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I when carrying out an attack.
In 2003, in reply to written questions from the Parliament concerning, inter alia, guidelines for aerial bombardment, the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands stated:
The guidelines for target selection during aerial bombardments are based on the relevant provisions of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Amongst others, all reasonable precautionary measures must be taken to avoid civilian casualties and to prevent collateral damage to civilian objects. In practice, Dutch fighter pilots will not attack targets, when it is likely that civilians will be present. Also, an attack may not be carried out if the collateral damage to be expected reasonably does not relate to the actual and direct military advantage.
In the regulations and procedures regarding the planning and deployment of Dutch fighter planes, precautionary measures have been taken to prevent unintentional collateral damage.