Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977
PART IV: CIVILIAN POPULATION
Section 1: General Protection Against Effects of Hostilities
Chapter I: Basic Rule and Field of Application
Article 48: Basic Rule
In order to ensure respect for and protection of the civilian population and
civilian objects, the Parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish
between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects
and military objectives and accordingly shall direct their operations only
against military objectives.
Article 49: Definition of Attacks and Scope of Application
- "Attacks" means acts of violence against the adversary,
whether in offense or in defense.
- The provisions of this Protocol with respect to attacks apply to all
attacks in whatever territory conducted, including the national territory
belonging to a Party to the conflict but under the control of an adverse
- The provisions of this Section apply to any land, air or sea warfare
which may affect the civilian population, individual civilians or civilian
objects on land. They further apply to all attacks from the sea or from
the air against objectives on land but do not otherwise affect the rules
of international law applicable in armed conflict at sea or in the air.
- The provisions of this Section are additional to the rules concerning
humanitarian protection contained in the Fourth Convention, particularly
in Part II thereof, and in other international agreements binding upon the
High Contracting Parties, as well as to other rules of international law
relating to the protection of civilians and civilian objects on land, at
sea or in the air against the effects of hostilities.
Chapter II: Civilians and Civilian Population
Article 50: Definition of Civilians and Civilian Population
- A civilian is any person who does not belong to one of the categories of
persons referred to in Article 4 A 111, lIl, (31 and 161 of the Third
Convention and in Article 43 of this Protocol. In case of doubt whether a
person is a civilian, that person shall be considered to be a civilian.
- The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians.
- The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not
come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of
its civilian character.
- The civilian population and individual civilians shall enjoy general
protection against dangers arising from military operations. To give
effect to this protection, the following rules, which are additional to
other applicable rules of international law, shall be observed in all
- The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall
not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence the primary
purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are
- Civilians shall enjoy the protection afforded by this Section, unless
and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities.
- Indiscriminate attacks are prohibited. Indiscriminate
- those which are not directed at a specific military objective;
- those which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be
directed at a specific military objective; or
- those which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which
cannot be limited as required by this Protocol; and consequently, in
each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and
civilians or civilian objects without distinction.
- Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as
- an attack by bombardment by any methods or means which treats as a
single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct
military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area
containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects;
- an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian
life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a
combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the
concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
- Attacks against the civilian population or civilians by way of reprisals
- The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual
civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from
military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military
objectives from attacks or to shield, favor or impede military operations.
The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian
population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military
objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.
- Any violation of these prohibitions shall not release the Parties to the
conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian
population and civilians, including the obligation to take the
precautionary measures provided for in Article 57.
Chapter III: Civilian Objects
Article 52: General Protection of Civilian Objects
- Civilian objects shall not be the object of attack or of reprisals.
Civilian objects are all objects which are not military objectives as
defined in paragraph 2.
- Attacks shall be limited strictly to military objectives.
In so far as objects are concerned, military objectives are limited to
those objects which by their nature, location, purpose or use make an
effective contribution to military action and whose total or partial
destruction, capture or neutralization, in the circumstances ruling at the
time, offers a definite military advantage.
- In case of doubt whether an object which is normally dedicated to
civilian purposes, such as a place of worship, a house or other dwelling
or a school, is being used to make an effective contribution to military
action, it shall be presumed not to be so used. Article 53 Protection of
cultural objects and of places of worship without prejudice to the
provisions of the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property
in the Event of Armed Conflict of 14 May 1954, and of other relevant
international instruments, it is prohibited:
- to commit any acts of hostility directed against the historic
monuments, works of art or places of worship which constitute the
cultural or spiritual heritage of peoples;
- to use such objects in support of the military effort;
- to make such objects the object of reprisals.
Article 54: Protection of Objects Indispensable to the Survival of the
- Starvation of civilians as a method of warfare is prohibited
- It is prohibited to attack, destroy, remove or render useless objects
indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, such as
foodstuffs, agricultural areas for the production of foodstuffs, crops,
livestock, drinking water installations and supplies and irrigation works,
for the specific purpose of denying them for their sustenance value to the
civilian population or to the adverse Party, whatever the motive, whether
in order to starve out civilians, to cause them to move away, or for any
- The prohibitions in paragraph 2 shall not apply to such of the objects
covered by it as are used by an adverse Party:
- as sustenance solely for the members of its armed forces; or
- if not as sustenance, then in direct support of military action,
provided, however, that in no event shall actions against these
objects be taken which may be expected to leave the civilian
population with such inadequate food or water as to cause its
starvation or force its movement.
- These objects shall not be made the object of reprisals.
- In recognition of the vital requirements of any Party to the conflict in
the defense of its national territory against invasion, derogation from
the prohibitions contained in paragraph 2 may be made by a Party to the
conflict within such territory under its own control where required by
imperative military necessity.
Article 55: Protection of the Natural Environment
- Care shall be taken in warfare to protect the natural environment
against widespread, long-term and severe damage. This protection includes
a prohibition of the use of methods or means of warfare which are intended
or may be expected to cause such damage to the natural environment and
thereby to prejudice the health or survival of the population.
- Attacks against the natural environment by way of reprisals are
- Works or installations containing dangerous forces, namely dams, dikes
and nuclear electrical generating stations, shall not be made the object
of attack, even where these objects are military objectives, if such
attack may cause the release of dangerous forces and consequent severe
losses among the civilian population. Other military objectives located at
or in the vicinity of these works or installations shall not be made the
object of attack if such attack may cause the release of dangerous forces
from the works or installations and consequent severe losses among the
- The special protection against attack provided by paragraph I shall
- for a dam or a dike only if it is used for other than its normal
function and in regular, significant and direct support of military
operations and if such attack is the only feasible way to terminate
- for a nuclear electrical generating station only if it provides
electric power in regular, significant and direct support of military
operations and if such attack is the only feasible way to terminate
- for other military objectives located at or in the vicinity of these
works or installations only if they are used in regular, significant
and direct support of military operations and if such attack is the
only feasible way to terminate such support.
- In all cases, the civilian population and individual civilians shall
remain entitled to all the protection accorded them by international law,
including the protection of the precautionary measures provided for in Article
57. If the protection ceases and any of the works, installations or
military objectives mentioned in paragraph 1 is attacked, all practical
precautions shall be taken to avoid the release of the dangerous forces.
- It is prohibited to make any of the works, installations or military
objectives mentioned in paragraph 1 the object of reprisals.
- The Parties to the conflict shall endeavor to avoid locating any
military objectives in the vicinity of the works or installations
mentioned in paragraph 1. Nevertheless, installations erected for the sole
purpose of defending the protected works or installations from attack are
permissible and shall not themselves be made the object of attack,
provided that they are not used in hostilities except for defensive
actions necessary to respond to attacks against the protected works or
installations and that their armament is limited to weapons capable only
of repelling hostile action against the protected works or installations.
- The High Contracting Parties and the Parties to the conflict are urged
to conclude further agreements among themselves to provide additional
protection for objects containing dangerous forces.
- In order to facilitate the identification of the objects protected by
this Article, the Parties to the conflict may mark them with a special
sign consisting of a group of three bright orange circles placed on the
same axis, as specified in Article 16 of Annex I to this Protocol. The
absence of such marking in no way relieves any Party to the conflict of
its obligations under this Article.
Chapter IV: Precautionary Measures
- In the conduct of military operations, constant care shall be taken to
spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects.
- With respect to attacks, the following precautions shall be taken:
- those who plan or decide upon an attack shall:
- do everything feasible to verify that the objectives to be
attacked are neither civilians nor civilian objects and are not
subject to special protection but are military objectives within
the meaning of paragraph 2 of Article 52 and
that it is not prohibited by the provisions of this Protocol to
- take all feasible precautions in the choice of means and methods
of attack with a view to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing,
incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage
to civilian objects;
- refrain from deciding to launch any attack which may be expected
to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians,
damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would
be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military
- an attack shall be canceled or suspended if it becomes apparent that
the objective is not a military one or is subject to special
protection or that the attack may be expected to cause incidental loss
of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or
a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the
concrete and direct military advantage anticipated;
- effective advance warning shall be given of attacks which may affect
the civilian population, unless circumstances do not pemmit.
- When a choice is possible between several military objectives for
obtaining a similar military advantage, the objective to be selected shall
be that the attack on which may be expected to cause the least danger to
civilian lives and to civilian objects.
- In the conduct of military operations at sea or in the air, each Party
to the conflict shall, in conformity with its rights and duties under the
rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, take all
reasonable precautions to avoid losses of civilian lives and damage to
- No provision of this article may be construed as authorizing any attacks
against the civilian population, civilians or civilian objects.
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