Practice Relating to Rule 27. Religious Personnel
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states that “religious personnel must be respected and protected” and stresses that, according to the Netherlands, “humanist counsellors belong to religious personnel”.
With respect to non-international armed conflicts in particular, the manual states: “Religious personnel must be respected and protected and must receive aid to fulfil their tasks.”
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands provides: “Religious personnel enjoy the same protection as medical personnel.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “Medical (and religious) personnel must be respected and protected.”
The manual further states:
Religious personnel are not considered medical personnel, but enjoy the same protection. They may be military or civilian. They include almoners, field pastors and rabbis whose sole duty is to act as ministers. They are attached to the armed forces of one party to the conflict, to medical corps or to civil defence institutions. Although less well known outside the Netherlands, humanist counsellors and life coaches also belong to the category of religious personnel.
The manual also states: “The term ‘non-combatant’ is used for anyone who is not a combatant. This includes all civilians … It also includes medical personnel and chaplains.”
In addition, the manual provides that “[m]ilitary members of the medical and religious personnel are not treated as prisoners of war. The detaining power may require them to lend support and assistance to prisoners of war”.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
Medical and religious personnel must be respected, protected and helped in fulfilling their duties. They may not be forced to carry out tasks incompatible with their humanitarian mission.
At the CDDH, the Netherlands proposed an amendment to include a new paragraph in Article 15 of the draft Additional Protocol I to the effect that “persons, attached to civilian medical units, who are giving not religious but other spiritual help, shall be protected and respected”.
The proposal was rejected by 13 votes in favour, 6 against and 29 abstentions.
In an explanatory memorandum on the ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocols, the Government of the Netherlands made a declaration to the effect that “humanist counsellors” were entitled to the same protection as religious personnel.