Practice Relating to Rule 4. Definition of Armed Forces
Section A. General definition
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands defines armed forces with reference to Article 43(1) of the 1977 Additional Protocol I and states that all armed forces, whether regular or irregular, have to be “organized, under a responsible command, and subject to an internal disciplinary system”.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “Only members of the armed forces are entitled to attack or resist the enemy.”
The manual defines “armed forces” as follows:
The armed forces of a party to a conflict consist of all organized armed forces, groups and units which are:
- under one command; and
- subject to an internal disciplinary system.
This not only applies to the armed forces of States, but also to members of resistance and liberation armies. The command need not consist of one person, but must be responsible for subordinates’ behaviour towards the party to the conflict (generally the State). The internal disciplinary system must ensure obedience to the rules of the humanitarian law of war.
In an explanatory memorandum submitted to the Dutch Parliament in the context of the ratification procedure of the 1977 Additional Protocols, the Government of the Netherlands stated that armed forces consisted of regular as well as irregular troops, provided they fulfilled the conditions set forth in Article 43 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I.