United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 146. Reprisals against Protected Persons
Section B. Wounded, sick and shipwrecked in the power of the adversary
The US Field Manual (1956), referring to Article 13 of the 1949 Geneva Convention III and Article 33 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV, provides:
Reprisals against the persons or property of prisoners of war, including the wounded and sick, … are forbidden … However, reprisals may still be visited on enemy troops who have not yet fallen into the hands of the forces making the reprisals.
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976), referring to Article 46 of the 1949 Geneva Convention I and Article 47 of the 1949 Geneva Convention II, provides:
Reprisals against the wounded [and] sick … protected by [the 1949 Geneva Convention I] are prohibited …
Reprisals against the wounded, sick and shipwrecked persons … protected by [the 1949 Geneva Convention II] are prohibited …
No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
The Pamphlet further states:
Reprisals are forbidden, under all circumstances, against the persons or objects referenced above in accordance with the 1949 Geneva Conventions. At least some, and possibly all, of these prohibitions are regarded as customary law and are binding regardless of whether the adversary is a party to the Geneva Conventions. For definitions as to persons or objects protected under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, applicable articles of those documents must be consulted.
The US Air Force Commander’s Handbook (1980), under the heading “Persons and Things Not Subject to Reprisals”, states: “Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, reprisals may not be directed against … the sick and wounded [and] the shipwrecked”.
The US Operational Law Handbook (1993) provides:
The following measures are expressly prohibited by the law of war and are not excusable on the basis of military necessity:
m. Reprisals against persons or property protected by the Geneva Conventions, to include the wounded, sick, or shipwrecked.
The US Naval Handbook (1995) states: “Reprisals are forbidden to be taken against: … 2. Wounded, sick and shipwrecked persons.”
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states: “Reprisals are forbidden to be taken against: … 2. Wounded, sick, and shipwrecked persons.”
In 1987, the Deputy Legal Adviser of the US Department of State, mentioning that the protection of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked was an area in which the 1977 Additional Protocol I “does contain some useful codifications or improvements of existing rules”, affirmed: “We support the principle that all the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked be respected and protected, and not be made the object of attacks or reprisals, regardless of the party to the conflict to which they belong.”
In its written statement submitted to the ICJ in the Nuclear Weapons case
in 1995, the United States noted that it considered that the provisions of the 1977 Additional Protocol I regarding reprisals were “new rules”.