Practice Relating to Rule 3. Definition of Combatants
In 2006, in a report on the detention and transfer of persons in Afghanistan in 2002, the Danish Ministry of Defence stated:
[The 1949] Geneva Conventions provide for a central distinction between combatants, who are protected by the Third Geneva Convention, and civilians, who are protected by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
In accordance with the Third Geneva Convention, Article 4A, combatants are understood as:
(1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:
(a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
(b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
(c) that of carrying arms openly;
(d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
The combatant concept is also described in Articles 43 and 44 of Additional Protocol I to [the 1949] Geneva Conventions. These provide in particular that persons involved in the armed conflict and are under a conflicting party’s command and a disciplinary system, and (as a group) comply with the rules of war are subject to combatant concept and thus entitled to POW status.