Practice Relating to Rule 109. Search for, Collection and Evacuation of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked
The Hellenic Territorial Army’s Internal Service Code (1984), as amended, provides: “Members of the armed forces should: … Remove … the wounded and sick, when circumstances allow.”
The Hellenic Navy’s International Law Manual (1995) states:
Simultaneously, the duty to provide care is combined with the duty to search and rescue, in cases when during an armed conflict the sinking of an enemy vessel occurs. If it is a war-ship the shipwrecked shall be considered as prisoners of war. If the shipwrecked are civilians (i.e. in case of sinking of a merchant vessel which constitutes a legitimate military target), the aforementioned protection shall be afforded. Search and rescue of shipwrecked and wounded and the collection of the dead may create an acute problem as to who is responsible to care and which way. The duty to care is practically attached to military medical vessels or to requisitioned vessels converted for that purpose. Until the time of arrival and reception of persons in need of care to the above vessels, the search and rescue operation is performed by belligerent vessels navigating in the vicinity. There is no established practice indicating the cessation of hostilities for this purpose in the vicinity. Even if such an agreement has been concluded, in order to facilitate the fulfillment of this supreme humanitarian duty, there is no guarantee whatsoever that war-ships shall not become targets for submarines. Since the issue remains unregulated in treaty law, consequences of war and military necessity of the moment seem to be the crucial factors for the determination of taking over search and rescue operations, thus endangering the fate of war-ships. Another controversial aspect of the issue is that the care department of the ship enjoys protection (art. 28 of the IInd Geneva Convention), although the ship as a whole is allowed be destructed.