Practice Relating to Rule 3. Definition of Combatants
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands states: “The members of the armed forces have the status of combatant, except medical and religious personnel.”
The manual specifies that personnel of the burial service of the armed forces are not considered medical personnel (they have regular combatant status) and that humanist counsellors are considered religious personnel.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
Members of armed forces have combatant status, unless they belong to the medical or religious personnel. The term “combatant” has a wider meaning in the humanitarian law of war. Combatants are those entitled to participate directly in hostilities. “Participate directly in hostilities” comprises more than participation in battle: it also covers direct support of military operations.
0305. Every armed force has people working for it who do not bear arms. Within the rules of the humanitarian law of war, a State is entitled to decide which members of its armed forces to designate as combatants and which as non-combatants. The Netherlands has done this in relation to civilian personnel who work in defence. Except for surveillance personnel, these staff are unarmed. Nevertheless, some of them are designated as combatants.
The manual further states: “The humanitarian law of war does not forbid women to hold combatant status or to play a direct part in hostilities.”