Rule 87. Civilians and persons hors de combat must be treated humanely.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.
The obligation to treat prisoners of war humanely was already recognized in the Lieber Code, the Brussels Declaration and the Oxford Manual and was codified in the Hague Regulations.
The requirement of humane treatment for civilians and persons hors de combat
is set forth in common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, as well as in specific provisions of all four Conventions.
This requirement is recognized as a fundamental guarantee by both Additional Protocols I and II.
The requirement of humane treatment is set forth in numerous military manuals.
It has been reaffirmed in national and international case-law.
Human rights law is similarly based on the principle of humane treatment of persons. In particular, human rights instruments stress the requirement of humane treatment and respect for human dignity of persons deprived of their liberty.
In its General Comment on Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee declared Article 10, which requires that persons deprived of their liberty be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, to be non-derogable and therefore applicable at all times.
The actual meaning of “humane treatment” is not spelled out, although some texts refer to respect for the “dignity” of a person or the prohibition of “ill-treatment” in this context.
The requirement of humane treatment is an overarching concept. It is generally understood that the detailed rules found in international humanitarian law and human rights law give expression to the meaning of “humane treatment”. The rules in Chapters 33–39 contain specific applications of the requirement of humane treatment for certain categories of persons: the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, persons deprived of their liberty, displaced persons, women, children, the elderly, the disabled and infirm. However, these rules do not necessarily express the full meaning of what is meant by humane treatment, as this notion develops over time under the influence of changes in society. This is shown, for example, by the fact that the requirement of humane treatment has been mentioned in international instruments since the mid-19th century, but the detailed rules which stem from this requirement have developed since then, and may do so still further.