Precautions against the effects of attacks in urban areas

The conduct of hostilities in urban areas is inherently difficult, particularly with respect to the protection of civilians. International humanitarian law places restraints on both attackers and defenders. While much is written about the obligations of attackers with respect to protecting civilians, much less attention has been paid to the defender's obligations. These obligations are routinely referred to as "passive precautions" or "precautions against the effects of attacks" and are codified in Article 58 of Additional Protocol I to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Article 58 requires parties, "to the maximum extent feasible", to remove civilians and civilian objects from the vicinity of military objectives, to avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas, and to take other necessary precautions to protect civilians and civilian objects from the dangers resulting from military operations.

About the author

Eric Talbot Jensen
Brigham Young University

Dr Eric Talbot Jensen is a Professor of Law at Brigham Young University Law School and a retired US Army Judge Advocate who provided legal advice to military commanders while deployed to Bosnia, Macedonia, Kosovo and Iraq.

Subscribe to the ICRC newsletter