(a) Specific protection must be provided to civil defence organizations and their personnel, whether civilian or military. They must be entitled to perform their civil defence tasks except in the case of imperative military necessity.
(b) Specific protection must also be provided to buildings and materiel used for civil defence purposes and to shelters provided for the civilian population. Objects used for civil defence purposes may not be destroyed or diverted from their proper use except by the Belligerent Party to which they belong.
- Rule 90 (a) pertains to the specific protection of civil defence organizations and their personnel; in particular, the obligation to respect and protect such organizations and their personnel. It is based on two different provisions of AP/I, namely, Art. 62 (1) of AP/I concerning civilian civil defence organizations and their personnel, and Art. 67 (1) of AP/I concerning members of the armed forces and military units assigned to civil defence organizations. Although Rule 90 covers both civilian and military civil defence organizations and personnel, some disparities exist in the legal regime applicable to civilian or military civil defence. These will be dealt with below.
- For the purpose of this Manual, the term “civil defence organizations” comprises those establishments and other units which are organized or authorized by the competent authorities of a Belligerent Party to per-form any civil defence tasks, and which are assigned and devoted exclusively to such tasks. The notion of “organizations” does not imply a large organizational set up. These organizations may be rather small establishments.
- For the purpose of this Manual, the “personnel” of civil defence organizations means those persons exclusively assigned by a Belligerent Party to the performance of civil defence tasks. This definition encompasses, in particular, individuals formally embodied in a unit corresponding to the definition of a civil defence organization.
- Rule 90 (a) ought not to be interpreted as restricting the specific protection to civil defence organizations and their personnel. Accordingly, civilians responding to an appeal from − and acting under the control of − the authorities of a Belligerent Party must equally be provided specific protection while performing civil defence tasks, even if they are not members of a civil defence organization.
- Medical and religious personnel assigned to civil defence organizations retain their protection as medical or religious personnel. On the protection of medical and religious personnel, see Section K, in particular Rule 71.
- Assignment to civil defence tasks for a limited and even relatively short period is possible, provided that it is exclusive throughout that period. The fact that a civil defence assignment provides specific protection only when a person is exclusively so assigned does not detract from the general protection as a civilian this person enjoys before and after the assignment. During the assignment, and as long as the civilian exclusively performs civil defence tasks, he is entitled to specific protection beyond the general protection enjoyed as a civilian, as described in this Section of the Manual.
- The flexible system admitting a switch to and from civil defence assignments does not apply to military units of civil defence. These military units only benefit from specific protection if a number of cumulative conditions are fulfilled, including those of being permanently assigned and exclusively devoted to the performance of civil defence tasks and of not performing any other military duties during the conflict. Once such personnel or units have been assigned to civil defence, they are forbidden − for the whole duration of the armed conflict − to perform any other military duty, in particular combat or combat support duty.
- The obligation to respect and to protect civil defence organizations and their personnel implies that they may not be deliberately attacked and that they may not be unnecessarily prevented from carrying out their tasks. This latter element − expressly spelled out in the second sentence of Rule 90 − is subject to one exception: the right to perform civil defence functions is suspended in case of “imperative military necessity”. This limitation implies that military operations cannot be hindered by the activities of civil defence: a Belligerent Party is not compelled to change major operational military plans in order to avoid affecting civil defence activities.
- Art. 62 (1) of AP/I (“General Protection”): “Civilian civil defence organizations and their personnel shall be respected and protected, subject to the Rules of this Protocol, particularly the Rules of this Section. They shall be entitled to perform their civil defence tasks except in case of imperative military necessity.”
- Art. 67 (1) of AP/I (“Members of the armed forces and military units assigned to civil defence organizations.”): “1. Members of the armed forces and military units assigned to civil defence organizations shall be respected and protected, provided that:(a) such personnel and such units are permanently assigned and exclusively devoted to the performance of any of the tasks mentioned in Article 61; (b) if so assigned, such personnel do not perform any other military duties during the conflict; (c) such personnel are clearly distinguishable from the other members of the armed forces by prominently displaying the international distinctive sign of civil defence, which shall be as large as appropriate, and such personnel are provided with the identity card referred to in Chapter V of Annex I to this Protocol certifying their status; (d) such personnel and such units are equipped only with light individual weapons for the purpose of maintaining order or for self-defence. The provisions of Article 65, paragraph 3 shall also apply in this case; (e) such personnel do not participate directly in hostilities, and do not commit, or are not used to commit, outside their civil defence tasks, acts harmful to the adverse Party; (f) such personnel and such units perform their civil defence tasks only within the national territory of their Party. The non-observance of the conditions stated in (e) above by any member of the armed forces who is bound by the conditions prescribed in (a) and (b) above is prohibited.”
- Art. 61 (b) of AP/I: “For the purposes of this Protocol: … ‘civil defence organizations’ means those establishments and other units which are organized or authorized by the competent authorities of a Party to the conflict to per-form any of the tasks mentioned under sub-paragraph (a), and which are assigned and devoted exclusively to such tasks.”
- Art. 62 (2) of AP/I: “The provisions of paragraph 1 shall also apply to civilians who, although not members of civilian civil defence organizations, respond to an appeal from the competent authorities and perform civil defence tasks under their control.”
- Art. 8 (c) of AP/I, see fn. 394.
See also Art. 8 (d) (iv) of AP/I concerning religious personnel assigned to civil defence organizations, see fn. 395.
- Art. 67 (1) of AP/I, see fn. 513.
- Art. 67 (1) (a) and (b) of AP/I, see fn. 513.
- Rule 90 (b) extends the specific protection to buildings and materiel used for civil defence purposes and to shelters provided for the civilian population. Buildings used for civil defence purposes include those accommodating civil defence organizations. Examples include buildings for administrative purposes, stations for personnel of civil defence organizations on guard duty for civilian purposes, facilities used for storing of materiel, garages housing vehicles etc.
- “Civil defence materiel” comprises equipment and supplies, as well as means of transport of civil de-fence organizations (on land, water or in the air).
- Civil defence organizations may use aircraft for purposes such as rescuing or evacuating civilians from a zone of danger, extinguishing fires or transporting civil defence materiel. There is no explicit regulation of civil defence air transportation. However, the specific protection due to civil defence aircraft may be envisaged by analogy with that granted to medical aircraft. In other words, civil defence aircraft benefit from specific protection − even without the consent of the enemy − when operating in and over land areas physically controlled by friendly forces or in and over sea areas not physically controlled by the enemy. In and over areas controlled by the enemy, as well as in and over those parts of the contact zone which are physically controlled by friendly forces or the physical control of which is not clearly established, the protection of civil defence aircraft can be fully effective only by prior consent obtained from the enemy. In the absence of such consent, civil defence aircraft operate at their own risk. They must nevertheless be respected once they have been identified as such (see Rule 77 and Rule 78).
- Objects used for civil defence purposes may not be directly attacked. They may, however, suffer from collateral damage caused by an attack on a lawful target (see Rule 14). To a large extent, their vulnerability to becoming collateral damage depends on their separation from lawful targets. By comparison to other civilian objects, objects used for civil defence purposes can be marked with a distinctive sign (see Art. 66 of AP/I), thereby enhancing the likelihood that they will be identified as civilian objects entitled to specific protection (see Rule 91).
- The right to destroy objects used for civil defence purposes or to divert them from their proper use is granted only to “the Party to which they belong”.
- Para. 2454 of the ICRC Commentary on AP/I, pertaining to Art. 62 of AP/I: “The buildings concerned are those accommodating civil defence organizations, i.e., primarily their administrative services, but also the locations for personnel on guard duty, stores for ‘matériel,’ garages housing vehicles intended for civil defence etc.”
- Art. 61 (d) of AP/I: “For the purposes of this Protocol: … (d) ‘Matériel’ of civil defence organizations means equipment, supplies and transports used by these organizations for the performance of the tasks mentioned under sub-paragraph (a).”
- Art. 66 of AP/I, see fn. 523.
- Art. 62 (3) of AP/I: “Buildings and ‘matériel’ used for civil defence purposes and shelters provided for the ci-vilian population are covered by Article 52. Objects used for civil defence purposes may not be destroyed or diverted from their proper use except by the Party to which they belong.”