Belligerent Parties subject to air or missile attacks must, to the maximum extent feasible, avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas, hospitals, cultural property, places of worship, prisoner of war camps, and other facilities which are entitled to specific protection as per Sections K, L and N (II).
- The Rule is based on Art. 58 (b) of AP/I. See also the second paragraph of Art. 19 of GC/I as well as Art. 83 of GC/IV.
- Although it does not follow directly from the text, the spirit of Art. 23 of GC/III entails that similar considerations must apply to POW-camps as to densely populated areas and hospitals. The Group of Experts could not see any good reason why in practice there ought to be a distinction between POW-camps and civilian objects.
- According to Art. 23 of GC/III and Art. 83 of GC/IV, POW-camps and internment camps must — whenever military considerations permit — be indicated by the letters PW/PG and IC respectively, placed so as to be clearly visible in the daytime from the air. The Powers concerned may, however, agree upon any other system of marking. In modern air and missile warfare it may prove necessary to consider other methods than marking in order to bring protected locations to the notice of the enemy.
- Rule 42 is the general Rule. It must, however, be acknowledged that military objectives are sometimes located in urban areas due to practical or military reasons. Thus, Ministries of Defence and other military objectives have long been located in urban areas and cannot be removed. In such cases, the obligation remains on the attacking party to ensure that the attack is not expected to cause excessive collateral damage (see Rule 14). Under the circumstances, one way of achieving this end may be through the use of precision guided weapons (see Rule 8).
- The existence of military objectives in urban areas does not preclude the possibility that the locality will become a non-defended place. As to the issue of declared non-defended localities, see the Commentary on Rule 10 (b) (ii).
- Rule 42 applies also in non-international armed conflict. However, since there is no entitlement to POW-status in non-international armed conflict, there are no POW-camps to consider.
- Art. 58 (b) of AP/I: “The Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible: … (b) avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.”
- Second paragraph of Art. 19 of GC/I: “The responsible authorities shall ensure that the said medical establishments and units are, as far as possible, situated in such a manner that attacks against military objectives cannot imperil their safety.”
- Art. 83 of GC/IV: “The Detaining Power shall not set up places of internment in areas particularly exposed to the dangers of war. The Detaining Power shall give the enemy Powers, through the intermediary of the Protecting Powers, all useful information regarding the geographical location of places of internment. Whenever military considerations permit, internment camps shall be indicated by the letters IC, placed so as to be clearly visible in the daytime from the air. The Powers concerned may, however, agree upon any other system of marking. No place other than an internment camp shall be marked as such.”
- Art. 23 of GC/III: “No prisoner of war may at any time be sent to, or detained in areas where he may be exposed to the fire of the combat zone, nor may his presence be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations. Prisoners of war shall have shelters against air bombardment and other hazards of war, to the same extent as the local civilian population. With the exception of those engaged in the protection of their quarters against the aforesaid hazards, they may enter such shelters as soon as possible after the giving of the alarm. Any other protective measure taken in favour of the population shall also apply to them. Detaining Powers shall give the Powers concerned, through the intermediary of the Protecting Powers, all useful information regarding the geographical location of prisoner of war camps. Whenever military considerations permit, prisoner of war camps shall be indicated in the day-time by the letters PW or PG, placed so as to be clearly visible from the air. The Powers concerned may, however, agree upon any other system of marking. Only prisoner of war camps shall be marked as such.”
- See NIAC Manual to SRM/ACS, at page 44.