United States of America
Practice Related to Rule 95. Forced Labour
Section B. Compelling persons to serve in the forces of a hostile power
The US Field Manual (1956) provides that compelling a prisoner of war or a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile power is a grave breach of the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) recalls Article 23 of the 1907 Hague Regulations, which “forbids compelling nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country”, and Article 45 of the 1907 Hague Regulations, which “forbids compelling the inhabitants of occupied territory to swear allegiance to the hostile power”. The Pamphlet also refers to Article 51 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV and states: “Compulsory military service by protected persons in the armed forces of the occupant is prohibited.” It adds: “Wilfully compelling civilians or PWs [prisoners of war] to perform prohibited labour” is an act involving individual criminal responsibility.”
The US Air Force Commander’s Handbook (1980): “A belligerent is likewise forbidden to compel the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country.”
Under the US War Crimes Act (1996), violations of common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and violations of Article 23 of the 1907 Hague Regulations are war crimes.
In its judgement in the Weizsaecker case (The Ministries Trial)
in 1949, the US Military Tribunal at Nuremberg held that “pressure or coercion to compel [prisoners of war] to enter into the armed forces obviously violated international law” and that the conscription of foreign nationals into the armed forces of a belligerent was a crime against humanity.
In 1992, in its final report to Congress on the conduct of the Gulf War, the US Department of Defense stated: “Compelling hostages to serve in the armed forces of Iraq constitute Grave Breaches (that is, major violations of the law of war) under Article 147 [of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV].”
The report also listed some specific Iraqi war crimes including “compelling Kuwaiti and third country nationals to serve in the armed forces of Iraq, in violation of Articles 51 and 147 [of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV]”.