Practice Relating to Rule 27. Religious Personnel
Australia’s Commanders’ Guide (1994) states: “Protected status is afforded to civilian and military religious personnel while engaged solely in meeting spiritual needs.”
Australia’s Defence Force Manual (1994) states:
Religious personnel are defined as those military or civilian personnel, who are exclusively engaged in their ministry and who are permanently or temporarily attached to one of the protagonists, their medical units or transports, or to a civil defence … Like medical personnel, chaplains may not be attacked but must be protected and respected. As with medical personnel, religious personnel do not become PW, unless their retention is required for the spiritual welfare of PW [prisoners of war]. They must be repatriated as early as possible.
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states: “Religious personnel, including military chaplains, are protected persons in the same way as are medical personnel. Religious personnel who participate directly in combat operations lose their protected status”.
Like medical personnel “chaplains who fall into enemy hands do not become PW [prisoners of war]”.
With regard to the identification of religious personnel, the manual states:
Identity cards are to be issued to … religious … personnel regardless of whether they are of permanent or temporary status. Under no circumstances are they to be deprived of this identification. Should circumstances prevent the issue of an identity card, a certificate may be issued temporarily until such time as a proper card can be issued.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
Australia’s Criminal Code Act (1995), as amended to 2007, states with respect to war crimes that are serious violations of article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions and are committed in the course of an armed conflict that is not an international armed conflict:
268.69 Definition of religious personnel
In this Subdivision:
includes non-confessional, non-combatant military personnel carrying out a similar function to religious personnel.