United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 146. Reprisals against Protected Persons
Section C. Medical and religious personnel in the power of the adversary
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 … personnel … protected by [the 1949 Geneva Convention I] are prohibited …
Reprisals against … the 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 … medical personnel”.
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.
The US Naval Handbook (1995) states: “Reprisals are forbidden to be taken against: … 4. Hospitals and medical facilities, personnel, and equipment.”
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states: “Reprisals are forbidden to be taken against: … 4. … medical … personnel”.
In 1987, the Deputy Legal Adviser of the US Department of State, referring to Articles 12–20 the 1977 Additional Protocol I, affirmed: “We … support the principle that medical units, including properly authorized civilian medical units, be respected and protected at all times and not be the object of attacks or reprisals.”
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”.