The principle of distinction is a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law which provides that parties to an armed conflict must “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”. This implies that indiscriminate attacks and the use of indiscriminate means and methods of warfare are prohibited.
See Fundamental principles of IHL; Adverse distinction; Civilian population; Combatants; Civilian objects; Military objectives; Indiscriminate attacks; Means of warfare; Methods of warfare;
Fundamental distinction between Combatants and Civilians
Conduct of hostilities, II. The protection of the civilian population against the effects of hostilities, 1. Basic rule: Art. 48 of Protocol I
obligation to distinguish between legitimate targets and civilians, and between military objectives and civilian objects
obligation of combatants to distinguish themselves
Nigeria, Pius Nwaoga v. The State
Amnesty International, Breach of the Principle of Distinction
United States, The Schlesinger Report
Afghanistan, Code of Conduct for the Mujahideen (Art. 63)
United States, Status and Treatment of Detainees Held in Guantanamo Naval Base
ECHR, Khatsiyeva v. Russia (Paras. 132-138)
Cambodia/Thailand, Border Conflict around the Temple of Preah Vihear
Belgium, Public Prosecutor v. G.W.
Israel/Gaza, Operation Cast Lead
Israel, Human Rights Committee’s Report on Beit Hanoun
United States/United Kingdom, Report on the Conduct of the Persian Gulf War
Armed Conflicts in the former Yugoslavia (Para. 13)
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, NATO Intervention
South Sudan: Medical Care Under Fire
European Court of Human Rights, Kononov v. Latvia
U.S., Lethal Operations against Al-Qa’ida Leaders
UN, Report of the Secretary-General for the World Humanitarian Summit
ICRC, International Humanitarian Law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts in 2015 (Paras. 229-230)
Libya, Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (2014/15)
Syria, Report by UN Commission of Inquiry (March 2017)
Afghanistan, Bombing of a Civilian Truck
Italy, Use of force against ambulances in Iraq
Iraq/Syria/UK, Drone Operations against ISIS
Germany, Aerial Drone Attack in Mir Ali/Pakistan
Syria, Syrian rebels treat captured Filipino soldiers as 'guests'
Central African Republic/Democratic Republic of Congo/Uganda, LRA attacks
Central African Republic, Coup d'Etat
Georgia: Attacks against peacekeepers
Somalia/US, Airstrikes in Somalia
“Great March of Return” Demonstrations and Israel’s Military Response
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BROWN Kenneth B., “Counter-Guerrilla Operations: Does the Law of War Proscribe Success?”, in Naval Law Review, Vol. 44, 1997, pp. 123-173.
DAVID Eric, “Respect for the Principle of Distinction in the Kosovo War”, in YIHL, Vol. 3, 2000, pp. 81-107.
DINSTEIN Yoram, “Distinction and Loss of Civilian Protection in International Armed Conflicts”, IYHR, Vol. 38, 2008, pp. 1-16
FERRELL William H., “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Status: Uniforms, Distinction and Special Operations in International Armed Conflict”, in Military Law Review, Vol. 178, Winter 2003, pp. 94-140, online: http://www.fas.org/man/eprint/ferrell.pdf.
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PETERS Ralph, “The New Warriors Class”, in Parameters, Summer 1994, pp. 16-26
PFANNER Toni, “Military Uniforms and the Law of War”, in IRRC, No. 853, March 2004, pp. 93-130
PLAW Avery, “Upholding the Principle of Distinction in Counter-Terrorist Operations: a Dialogue”, in Journal of Military Ethics, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2010, pp. 3-22.
SCHMITT Michael N., “The Impact of High and Low-Tech Warfare on the Principle of Distinction”, in ARNOLD Roberta & HILDBRAND Pierre-Antoine (eds), International Humanitarian Law and the 21st Century’s Conflicts, Lausanne, Edis, 2005, pp. 169-189
URBINA Julio Jorge, Protección de las víctimas de los conflictos armados, Naciones Unidas y derecho internacional humanitario: desarrollo y aplicación delprincipio de distinción entre objetivos militares y bienes de carácter civil, Valencia, Tirant Monografías, 2000, 439 pp.
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WARD Christopher, “Distinction: the Application of the Additional Protocols in the Theatre of War”, in Asia-Pacific Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, Vol. 2 (2006), 2007, pp. 36-45
WENGER Andreas & MASON Simon J. A., “The Civilianization of Armed Conflict: Trends and Implications”, in IRRC, Vol. 90, No. 872, December 2008, pp. 835-852
DOSWALD-BECK Louise, “The Value of the Geneva Protocols for the Protection of Civilians”, in MEYER Michael (ed.), Armed conflict and the New Law: Aspects of the 1977 Geneva Protocols and the 1981 Weapons Conventions, London, 1989, pp. 137-172.
GEHRING Robert W., “Protection of Civilian Infrastructures”, in Law and Contemporary Problems, Vol. 42/2, 1978, pp. 86-139.
OBRADOVIC Konstantin, “La protection de la population civile dans les conflits armés internationaux”, in CASSESE Antonio (ed.), The New Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict, Naples, Editoriale Scientifica, Vol. I, 1979, pp. 128-160.
SALAHI Reem, “Israel’s War Crimes: a First Hand Account of Israel’s Attacks on Palestinian Civilians and Civilian Infrastructure”, in Rutgers Law Record, Vol. 36, 2009, pp. 201-223.
SAUSSURE Hamilton de, “Belligerent Air Operations and the 1977 Geneva Protocol I”, in Annals of Air and Space Law, Vol. 1, 1976, pp. 33-47.
SPAIGHT James M., Air Power and War Rights, London, Longmans, 1947, 523 pp.
URBINA Julio Jorge, Protección de las víctimas de los conflictos armados, Naciones Unidas y derecho internacional humanitario: desarrollo y aplicación del principio de distinción entre objetivos militares y bienes de carácter civil, Valencia, Tirant Monografías, 2000, 439 pp.