Practice Related to Rule 95. Forced Labour
Section B. Compelling persons to serve in the forces of a hostile power
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands provides that compelling a protected person to serve a hostile power is a grave breach of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their 1977 Additional Protocols.
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states that “a prisoner of war may not accept certain privileges in exchange for his consent to work in an armaments factory. Prisoners of war may not do any work of a military nature”.
The manual further states:
0735. A detaining power may set prisoners of war to work. In doing so, it must take account of their age, sex, health, rank and physical fitness. Officers may not be required to work, while non-commissioned officers may perform only supervisory tasks. Other prisoners of war may be deployed only to a limited extent.
0736. A prisoner of war may never be ordered to carry out activities which would increase the adversary’s military potential, or to work in an industry which would form a legitimate military target for his/her own armed forces. However, prisoners of war may be ordered to work on the administration, set-up and maintenance of their camps. In addition, activities in the following fields may be ordered:
- industry in general, but with express exceptions;
- metallurgical, mechanical and chemical industries;
- public works and building operations that have no military character or purpose;
- transport and storage of goods that are not military in character or purpose;
- activities in the field of business, trade or arts and crafts;
- domestic services;
- public utility services having no military character or purpose.
The working conditions may not be inferior to those in which nationals of the detaining power perform similar work.
0737. A prisoner of war is not bound to carry out unhealthy or dangerous work. This is, however, possible on a voluntary basis. Prisoners of war are entitled to be paid for work done.
In its chapter on the protection of the civilian population, the manual states:
0814. Protected persons may be compelled to work only to the same extent as nationals of the country in whose territory they are located. They may also only be compelled to do work which is normally necessary to ensure the feeding, sheltering, clothing, transport and health of human beings and which is not directly related to the conduct of military operations …
Section 7 - Occupied areas
0833. Persons over the age of 18 may be obliged to work. This may be only within the occupied area, and the activities must serve the needs of the army of occupation, public utilities or the food supply, accommodation, clothing, transport or health of the population. The requisitioning of a workforce must in no case lead to mobilization of workers in an organization of a military or semi-military character. Employment on building defence works is also not permitted. Protected persons may not be deployed either on work which would compel them to take part in war operations.
The Definition of War Crimes Decree (1946) of the Netherlands includes “compulsory enlistment of soldiers among the inhabitants of occupied territory” in its list of war crimes.
Under the International Crimes Act (2003) of the Netherlands, it is a crime to commit in an international armed conflict grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including “compelling a prisoner of war or other protected person to serve in the armed forces of a hostile power”, as well as “compelling the nationals of the hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against their own country, even if they were in the belligerent’s service before the commencement of the war”.