Practice Relating to Rule 5. Definition of Civilians
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands defines a civilian as “every person who is not a combatant” and specifies: “the civilian population comprises all civilians”.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “The term “non-combatant” is used for anyone who is not a combatant. This includes all civilians … on the assumption that they play no part in the hostilities.”
In its chapter on behaviour in battle, the manual states:
A civilian is any person who is not a combatant … Medical personnel and chaplains occupy a special position: they do not have combatant status, but are not civilians … Persons accompanying armed forces, and personnel of the merchant marine, are considered civilians … If there is any doubt whether someone is a civilian, he or she is treated as a civilian.
0506. The civilian population comprises all civilians. The presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character.
In its chapter on the protection of prisoners of war, the manual states:
… some civilian personnel of the Dutch armed forces are considered members [of the armed forces] and, as such, have combatant status. Other personnel, who are not members of the armed forces, do not “accompany” in the meaning of the above rule. In the terms of the law of war, such personnel belong to the category of civilians.
In 2007, in reply to a written question from the Dutch Parliament regarding the status of private security companies under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands stated:
If there is an armed conflict, the status of private security personnel, not being a member of the armed forces, depends on factual circumstances. Most of the time, these circumstances will be of such a kind that private security personnel will have the status of “civilian” under International Humanitarian Law (IHL).