Practice Relating to Rule 47. Attacks against Persons Hors de Combat
Sweden’s IHL Manual (1991) considers that the safeguard of an enemy hors de combat
as contained in Article 41 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I is part of customary international law.
The manual states: “Article 40 of Additional Protocol I treats quarter – an archaic concept which is equivalent to showing mercy to an enemy who has been placed hors de combat.”
The manual adds:
Persons hors de combat may not be attacked, but shall enjoy the protection of international humanitarian law provided they abstain from any hostile act and do not attempt to escape.
In practice it can often be very hard to determine when this situation has arisen. If it is established that a person is hors de combat, he may not be subjected to attack, but he is not protected against the secondary effects of an attack on nearby objectives. It should also be noted that the mere presence of persons hors de combat does not imply that the place/object where they happen to be shall receive immunity.