A “reprisal” is a breach of international humanitarian law, which would otherwise be unlawful but in exceptional cases is considered lawful as an enforcement measure in response to a previous breach of international humanitarian law by the enemy, with the purpose of terminating the enemy’s violation.
Thus, reprisals are intended to put pressure on the enemy in order to obtain the enemy's compliance with international humanitarian law.
Reprisals are only allowed under very strict conditions and there is a trend towards outlawing reprisals in international humanitarian law.
Reprisals against wounded, sick or shipwrecked persons, medical or religious personnel, medical units, transports and material, prisoners of war, the civilian population and civilian persons, civilian objects, cultural property, objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population, the natural environment, works and installations containing dangerous forces and the buildings and material used for the protection of the civilian population are always prohibited.
against protected persons
against civilian population
against civilian objects
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