Practice Relating to Rule 7. The Principle of Distinction between Civilian Objects and Military Objectives
The Report on the Practice of Rwanda considers the prohibition on targeting civilian objects as a required precaution in attack.
In situations of armed conflict, while the primary responsibility of the protection of civilians rests with the State, we equally remind non-State actors and the United Nations, including peacekeepers and other humanitarian actors, to prioritize the protection of civilians. Rwanda therefore calls upon the parties to fully observe strict compliance with international law, to avoid targeting civilian objects, to stop militarizing camps and to allow access to humanitarian assistance.
In 1993, in a declaration concerning a report on violations of human rights in Rwanda, the Rwandan Government asked the Front Patriotique Rwandais (FPR) to cease all attacks against civilian targets such as camps for displaced persons, hospitals and schools.
On the basis of replies by army officers to a questionnaire, the Report on the Practice of Rwanda states that an attack against civilians can be defined as an attack against purely civilian targets such as a town or a village exclusively inhabited by civilians.
In 2010, in its Comments on the Draft UN Mapping Report on the DRC (Democratic Republic of the Congo), Rwanda stated:
The Draft Mapping Report alleges, in paragraphs 200 and 202 respectively, that “On 20 October 1996, units of the AFDL [Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo]/APR [Rwandan Patriotic Army] from Bwegera and the Rwandan town of Bugarama attacked the Kamanyola refugee camp in the Walungu territory, killing an unknown number of refugees …” and “… On 2 November 1996, AFDL/APR units attacked the Kashusha/INERA camp in the Kabare territory with heavy weapons, killing hundreds of refugees…”. In line with the RPA’s [Rwandan Patriotic Army’s] concept of operation, the refugee camps were never attacked as such. The setup of the refugee camps in South Kivu was such that the Ex-FAR [Rwanda Armed Forces, the national armed forces of Rwanda before July 1994]/Interahamwe
provided a perimeter defense with trenches. There were also inner defensive positions inside the camps. Whenever an RPA advance was detected, the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe
forward defenses would attack the advancing RPA force to avoid being encircled. In the process, the refugee population would flee. This is precisely what happened in Kamanyola, Kashusha, Inela, ADI-Kivu and other camps. The casualties reported in those particular camps were a result of fierce fighting between the RPA and the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe