United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 116. Accounting for the Dead
The US Field Manual (1956) provides:
Parties to the conflict shall record as soon as possible, in respect of each … dead person of the adverse Party falling into their hands, any particulars which may assist in his identification.
These records should if possible include:
(a) designation of the Power on which he depends;
(b) army, regimental, personal or serial number;
(d) first name or names;
(e) date of birth;
(f) any other particulars shown on his identity card or disc;
(g) date and place of capture or death;
(h) particulars concerning wounds or illness, or cause of death.
The manual also provides:
Parties to the conflict shall ensure that burial or cremation of the dead … is preceded by a careful examination, if possible by a medical examination, of the bodies, with a view to confirming death, establishing identity and enabling a report to be made.
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) refers to Article 16 of the 1949 Geneva Convention I.
The US Manual on Detainee Operations (2008) states:
(5) When a detainee in U.S. custody dies, the commander, the staff judge advocate or legal adviser, and appropriate military investigative agency will be notified immediately. The attending medical officer will provide the commander the following information:
(a) Full name of deceased
(b) ISN [internment serial number] of deceased
(c) ICRC number of deceased, if available
(d) Date and place of death
(e) A statement as to the cause of death
(6) After coordination with the AFME [Armed Forces Medical Examiner], the detention facility’s senior medical officer available will sign the death certificate. This authority will not be delegated. Upon the death of a detainee, the internment facility, unit, or medical facility will immediately notify the TDRC [theater detainee reporting center] through the chain of command by the most expeditious means possible.
The manual also states:
The DOD [Department of Defense] definition of the word “detainee” includes any person captured, detained, or otherwise under the control of DOD personnel (military, civilian, or contractor employee) … It does not include persons being held primarily for law enforcement purposes except where the United States is the occupying power …
a. Enemy Combatant. In general, a person engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners during an armed conflict. The term “enemy combatant” includes both “lawful enemy combatants” and “unlawful enemy combatants.”
b. Enemy Prisoner of War. Individual under the custody and/or control of the DOD according to Articles 4 and 5 of the … [1949 Geneva Convention III].
c. Retained Personnel … Personnel who fall into the following categories: official medical personnel of the armed forces exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport, or treatment of wounded or sick, or in the prevention of disease, and staff exclusively engaged in the administration of medical units and facilities; chaplains attached to enemy armed forces; staff of national Red Cross Societies and that of other volunteer aid societies duly recognized and authorized by their governments to assist medical service personnel of their own armed forces, provided they are exclusively engaged in the search for, or the collection, transport or treatment of, the wounded or sick, or in the prevention of disease, and provided that the staff of such societies are subject to military laws and regulations.
d. Civilian Internee
… A civilian who is interned during an armed conflict, occupation, or other military operation for security reasons, for protection, or because he or she has committed an offense against the detaining power.
In 1987, the Deputy Legal Adviser of the US Department of State affirmed: “We support … the principle that each party to a conflict permit teams to identify … the dead.”
The US Field Manual (1956) reproduces Article 17 of the 1949 Geneva Convention I.
The US Operational Law Handbook (1993) provides: “The Parties must … register grave sites, and, as soon as circumstances permit, relay to the affected Party, the exact location of burial and details of death.”
The US Field Manual (1956) provides that the graves of the dead are “marked so that they may always be found”.
The Annotated Supplement to the US Naval Handbook (1997) requires that “as soon as circumstances permit, arrangement be made to facilitate access to grave sites by relatives”.
In 1987, the Deputy Legal Adviser of the US Department of State affirmed: “We support … the principle that … the remains of the dead be … marked … [and] as soon as circumstances permit, arrangements be made to facilitate access to grave sites by relatives.”
The US Field Manual (1956) provides that the belligerents “shall organize at the commencement of hostilities an Official Graves Registration Service, to allow subsequent exhumations and to ensure the identification of bodies, whatever the site of the graves, and the possible transportation to the home country”.
The US Field Manual (1956) provides:
As soon as possible the … information [recorded by the parties to the conflict on the dead person of the adverse party] shall be forwarded to the Information Bureau described in Article 122 [of the 1949 Geneva Convention I], which shall transmit this information to the Power on which these persons depend … Parties to the conflict shall prepare and forward to each other through the same bureau, certificates of death or duly authenticated lists of the dead.