Rule 111. Protection of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked against Pillage and Ill-Treatment

Rule 111. Each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to protect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked against ill-treatment and against pillage of their personal property.
State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts. The acts against which the wounded, sick and shipwrecked have to be protected according to this rule, namely pillage and ill-treatment, are prohibited pursuant to Rules 52 and 87.
The obligation to take all possible measures to protect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked from pillage and ill-treatment in the context of international armed conflicts was first codified in the 1906 Geneva Convention and 1907 Hague Convention (X).[1] It is now set forth in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.[2]
Numerous military manuals refer to the duty to take all possible measures to protect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked against ill-treatment and pillage.[3] In particular, many manuals prohibit pillage of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, sometimes referred to as “marauding”, or specify that it constitutes a war crime.[4] For a definition of pillage, see the commentary to Rule 52.
The obligation to take all possible measures to protect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked from pillage and ill-treatment in non-international armed conflicts is set forth in Additional Protocol II.[5] In addition, it is contained in a number of other instruments pertaining also to non-international armed conflicts.[6]
A number of military manuals which are applicable in or have been applied in non-international armed conflicts prohibit pillage and ill-treatment of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked or specify the obligation to take all possible measures to protect them from pillage and ill-treatment.[7] In 1991, the Chief of Staff of the Yugoslav People’s Army ordered troops to prevent the pillage and mistreatment of the wounded and sick.[8]
No official contrary practice was found with respect to either international or non-international armed conflicts.
Practice further indicates that civilians have a duty to respect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked. With respect to international armed conflicts, this principle is set forth in Article 18 of the First Geneva Convention and in Article 17 of Additional Protocol I.[9] It is also stated in a number of military manuals.[10] Sweden’s IHL Manual, in particular, identifies Article 17 of Additional Protocol I as a codification of customary international law.[11] The Commentary on the Additional Protocols notes with respect to Article 17 of Additional Protocol I that:
The duty imposed here upon the civilian population is only to respect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, and not to protect them. Thus it is above all an obligation to refrain from action, i.e., to commit no act of violence against the wounded or take advantage of their condition. There is no positive obligation to assist a wounded person, though obviously the possibility of imposing such an obligation remains open for national legislation, and in several countries the law has indeed provided for the obligation to assist persons who are in danger, on pain of penal sanctions.[12]
The duty of civilians to respect the wounded, sick and shipwrecked also applies in non-international armed conflicts, because non-respect would be a violation of the fundamental guarantees accorded to all persons hors de combat (see Chapter 32). Under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, it is a war crime for anyone to kill or wound a person hors de combat whether in international or non-international armed conflicts.[13]
[1] 1906 Geneva Convention, Article 28 (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 34, § 403); Hague Convention (X), Article 16 (ibid., § 404).
[2] First Geneva Convention, Article 15, first paragraph (ibid., § 405); Second Geneva Convention, Article 18, first paragraph (ibid., § 406); Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 16, second paragraph (ibid., § 407).
[3] See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., § 415), Australia (ibid., § 416), Canada (ibid., §§ 419–420), Colombia (ibid., § 421), Germany (ibid., § 424), Indonesia (ibid., § 427), New Zealand (ibid., § 432), Nigeria (ibid., § 433), United Kingdom (ibid., §§ 438–439) and United States (ibid., §§ 440–441).
[4] See, e.g., the military manuals of Burkina Faso (ibid., § 417), Cameroon (ibid., § 418), Canada (ibid., § 420), Congo (ibid., § 422), France (ibid., § 423), Israel (ibid., § 425), Italy (ibid., § 426), Lebanon (ibid., § 428), Mali (ibid., § 429), Morocco (ibid., § 430), Philippines (“mistreat”) (ibid., § 434), Romania (ibid., § 435), Senegal (ibid., § 436), Switzerland (ibid., § 437), United Kingdom (ibid., § 438) and United States (“mistreating”) (ibid., § 442).
[5] Additional Protocol II, Article 8 (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 409).
[6] See, e.g., Memorandum of Understanding on the Application of IHL between Croatia and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, § 1 (ibid., § 412); Agreement on the Application of IHL between the Parties to the Conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, § 2.1 (ibid., § 413).
[7] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., § 416), Canada (ibid., §§ 419–420), Colombia (ibid., § 421), Germany (ibid., § 424), Italy (ibid., § 426), Lebanon (ibid., § 428), Netherlands (ibid., § 431), New Zealand (ibid., § 432) and Philippines (“mistreat”) (ibid., § 434).
[8] Yugoslavia, Order No. 579 of the Chief of General Staff of the Yugoslav People’s Army (ibid., § 519).
[9] First Geneva Convention, Article 18, second paragraph (ibid., § 524); Additional Protocol I, Article 17(1) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 525).
[10] See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (ibid., § 527), Australia (ibid., § 528), Germany (ibid., § 529), Spain (ibid., § 530), Switzerland (ibid., § 532), United Kingdom (ibid., § 533) and United States (ibid., §§ 534–535).
[11] Sweden, IHL Manual (ibid., § 531).
[12] Yves Sandoz, Christophe Swinarski, Bruno Zimmermann (eds.), Commentary on the Additional Protocols, ICRC, Geneva, 1987, § 701.
[13] ICC Statute, Article 8(2)(a)(i) and (c)(i) (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 32, §§ 675–676) and Article 8(2)(b)(vi) (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 15, § 217).