Practice Relating to Rule 48. Attacks against Persons Parachuting from an Aircraft in Distress
Sweden’s IHL Manual (1991) notes:
Proposals were presented at the [CDDH] to the effect that it should be permitted to employ armed force against a distressed airman expected to land in territory controlled by the enemy. Apart from the practical difficulties in determining whether a distressed parachutist will land on one side of the combat area or on the other, a rule with this content would have highly inhuman effects. These considerations resulted in the proposal being rejected.
During the negotiations [on the 1977 Additional Protocol I] it was pointed out that persons seeking to save themselves by parachuting are incapable of any use of weapons during their descent: their sole interest is probably in saving their lives. The situation can of course change when they have reached the ground. This is the background against which Article 42 [of the 1977 Additional Protocol I] provides protection for distressed persons leaving aircraft in emergency situations. If after landing the person chooses to continue his military resistance, it again becomes permissible to attack him. To avoid the possibility of abuse, it is particularly stated that airborne troops are not protected by the … rule.