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8 The Rule of Distinction (Objects)

From: The Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions in Context

Annyssa Bellal, Stuart Casey-Maslen

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 11 December 2023

Military objectives — Principle of distinction

This chapter explores the rule of distinctions, which governs the conduct of hostilities in international humanitarian law (IHL). It clarifies that the rule particularly targets objects under the two 1977 Additional Protocols, other IHL treaties, and customary law. The 1977 Additional Protocol explicitly focuses on the overarching obligation to distinguish between civilian objects and military objectives in the conduct of hostilities. The chapter also recognises how certain objects have no military function by their nature, but the virtue of their location makes an effective contribution to military action. Moreover, any civilian object could become a military objective as a consequence of its use for military functions. The chapter then highlights the special protection to hospitals and cultural property.

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