United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Related to Rule 95. Forced Labour
The UK Military Manual (1958) provides that “compelling prisoners of war to perform prohibited work” and “using and, in particular, deporting civilians for forced labour” are examples of punishable violations of the laws of war or war crimes.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states: “Neither prisoners of war nor the inhabitants of occupied territory may be employed on work of a military nature.”
In its chapter on prisoners of war, the manual states:
Officers may not be compelled to work, but if they ask for it should be given suitable work. Non-commissioned officers can be required to do only supervisory work but may be given other suitable tasks if they so request. Other ranks can be compelled to work if they are fit, having regard to their age, health, sex and physical aptitude.
The manual specifies: “Prisoners of war who work must be paid a fair working rate of pay by the detaining authorities direct.”
In its chapter on the protection of civilians in the hands of a party to the conflict, the manual states:
Protected persons may be compelled to work only to the same extent as nationals of the host state. If they are of enemy nationality, they may only be made to do work which is normally necessary to ensure the feeding, sheltering, clothing, transport and health of the population. They may not be required to do work directly related to the conduct of military operations.
In its discussion on the internment of civilians, the manual states:
9.77. Detaining powers are forbidden to employ internees as workers unless the internees so desire. Any work which, if undertaken under compulsion by a protected person not in internment, would be contrary to the terms of the [1949 Geneva Convention IV], or which is degrading or humiliating, is forbidden. States may, however, employ, even compulsorily, interned doctors, dentists and other medical personnel in their professional capacity on behalf of their fellow internees, as well as other internees for administrative, maintenance and domestic tasks within the camp, and also on air raid protection work, provided that their health permits.
9.79. The detaining power is responsible for working conditions, medical attention, payment of wages and for ensuring compensation for occupational accidents and diseases. The standards are to be in accordance with national law and practice and should in no case be inferior to those applying to work of the same nature in the same district.
9.80. Wages are to be determined on an equitable basis by special agreements between internees, the detaining power and, where appropriate, private employers. Those engaged in medical or other internment camp work are to be paid fair wages.
With regard to internal armed conflicts in which the 1977 Additional Protocol II is applicable, the manual provides:
Internees or detainees continue to benefit from the basic fundamental guarantees outlined in paragraphs 15.37 and 15.38 and, if wounded and sick, in paragraph 15.43. However, in addition and again as a minimum, they are entitled:
d. if made to work, to have the benefit of working conditions and safeguards similar to those enjoyed by the local civilian population.
In its judgement in the Student case
in 1946, the UK Military Court at Lüneberg found the accused guilty of forcing prisoners of war to unload arms, ammunition and warlike stores from German aircraft.
In 2005, during a debate in the House of Lords, a UK Minister stated:
The Government strongly condemn forced labour in all its forms. We fully support the work of the ILO [International Labour Organization] and work closely with the organisation to ensure that the international framework to combat abuses of workers’ rights throughout the world is in place and effective. We also provide substantial financial support.
The UK has ratified the ILO’s “core labour standards”, including those covering the abolition of forced labour. We have also taken specific actions to tackle forced labour within the United Kingdom.
The UK Government Strategy on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (2010) states: “IHL requires parties to a conflict to respect and protect civilians. … [C]ivilians must not be … subjected to acts of violence such as … forced recruitment”.
The UK Military Manual (1958) provides: “Protected persons of enemy nationality … must not be required to do work directly related to the conduct of military operations.” The compelling of prisoners of war and civilians to serve in the forces of the hostile power is strictly prohibited.
The manual also states that “compelling a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of the hostile power” is a war crime. It adds that “compelling a person to serve in the forces of the hostile power” is a war crime under the 1949 Geneva Convention IV.
Under the UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981), it is prohibited “to compel enemy nationals to take part in operations against their own country, even if they were in your service before the outbreak of hostilities”.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states: “It is … a grave breach of [the 1949] Geneva Convention III to compel a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of the hostile power.”
In its chapter on occupied territory, the manual provides:
The occupying power can create punishable offences in the interests of its security or that of the population in the occupied territory. It cannot compel the population of occupied territory to acknowledge its sovereignty. That means that civilians cannot be required to:
a. take part in operations against their own country;
b. assist the war effort of the occupying power against their own country;
c. serve in the armed or auxiliary forces of the occupying power;
d. give information to the occupying power about their own armed forces or other defence information.
The manual further states:
The Hague Regulations 1907 are now recognized as part of customary law. Those regulations provide that the following acts are “especially forbidden”:
i. to compel the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country, even if they were in the belligerent’s service before the commencement of the war.
The UK Geneva Conventions Act (1957), as amended in 1995, punishes “any person, whatever his nationality, who, whether in or outside the United Kingdom, commits, or aids, abets or procures the commission by any other person of, a grave breach of any of the [1949 Geneva] conventions”.
Under the UK ICC Act (2001), it is a punishable offence to commit a war crime as defined in Article 8(2)(a)(vi) and (b)(xv) of the 1998 ICC Statute.