United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 115. Disposal of the Dead
The UK Military Manual (1958) provides that “the belligerents must make provision for honourable interment” of the dead.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
7.35 The remains of the dead are to be honourably interred (unless burial at sea is appropriate) …
7.36. Graves must be respected and properly maintained. …
7.37. Exhumation is permitted only (a) in accordance with an agreement on the matters dealt with in paragraph 7.36; or (b) in accordance with overriding public necessity (which may include “medical or investigative necessity”). In such circumstances, the authorities of the territory in which the grave sites are situated are required to respect the remains and to give notice to the home state of the intended exhumation together with details of the intended place of re-interment. However, these provisions do not prevent the exhumation of temporary graves for the purpose of moving the remains to permanent graves in dignified, properly maintained cemeteries, such as those of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
In its chapter on internal armed conflict, the manual states: “The dead must not be despoiled or ill-treated and must be decently disposed of.”
With regard to internal armed conflicts in which the 1977 Additional Protocol II is applicable, the manual further states:
Whenever circumstances permit, and particularly after an engagement, all possible measures shall be taken without delay … to search for the dead, prevent their being despoiled and decently dispose of them.
In 2003, in a written reply to a question in the House of Lords, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, stated:
The Deployed Operating Instructions issued to all United Kingdom military units state that enemy dead are to be treated the same as UK military dead. This includes a direction that, where next of kin cannot be traced, the bodies are to be given the same funeral as would UK military personnel, subject to religious practices.