United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 110. Treatment and Care of the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked
The UK Military Manual (1958) states that in international armed conflicts, “the wounded and sick must be cared for by the belligerents in whose power they are”.
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) states that “combatants are required to … ensure … adequate care” of the shipwrecked, wounded and sick.
The Pamphlet restates the provisions of common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and specifies that, in the case of non-international armed conflicts, the wounded and sick shall be cared for.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states:
7.3. The wounded and sick are to be protected and respected. They may not be attacked. They must be treated humanely. They must be provided with medical care. They may not wilfully be left without medical assistance nor exposed to contagious diseases or infection. …
7.3.1. … The duty of protection imposes positive duties to assist them. The Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I do not seek the unattainable by what would be a vain attempt at removing all hardships arising from armed conflict affecting the groups of persons defined above; they merely seek to ameliorate their conditions. …
7.3.2. Paragraph 7.3 applies to all wounded and sick, whether United Kingdom, allied or enemy, military or civilian. They are entitled to respect and protection, humane treatment and, to the fullest extent practicable and with the least possible delay, the medical care and attention required by their condition. It is forbidden, for example, to give the treatment of United Kingdom and allied wounded priority over the treatment of wounded enemy personnel. The only distinction which is permitted in dealing with the wounded or sick is that founded on real medical need. There is no absolute obligation on the part of the military medical services to accept civilian wounded and sick – that is to be done only so far as it is practicable to do so. For example, the commander of a field hospital placed to deal with casualties from an impending battle would be entitled to refer non-urgent cases elsewhere, even if the hospital had the capacity to treat them at the time. Once the treatment of a civilian patient has commenced, however, discrimination against him on other than medical grounds is not permissible.
7.7. A party to a conflict compelled to abandon wounded or sick to his adversary, must, so far as military considerations permit, leave with them a part of his medical personnel and equipment to help in caring for them. Their presence does not, however, exempt the detaining power from providing any additional assistance that may be necessary.
7.9. The wounded and sick, as well as medical personnel and chaplains, may in no circumstances renounce in whole or in part, the rights secured to them by the Convention or by Additional Protocol I.
In its chapter on internal armed conflict, the manual states: “The wounded, sick and shipwrecked must be … given the medical treatment they need without discrimination for non-medical reasons.”
In 2003, in a reply to a written question in the House of Lords, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence, wrote:
The Deployed Operating Instructions issued to all United Kingdom military units state that enemy dead are to be treated the same as UK military dead. This includes a direction that, where next of kin cannot be traced, the bodies are to be given the same funeral as would UK military personnel, subject to religious practices. Wounded enemy personnel are given care and medical attention that accord fully with our obligations under the Geneva Convention.
The UK Government Strategy on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (2010) states: “During armed conflict
, civilians and combatants ‘hors de combat’ are entitled to specific protection under international humanitarian law (IHL)
providing that they are not, or are no longer, taking a direct part in hostilities. … [P]reventing the provision of medical care [is prohibited]”.
(emphasis in original)
In 2010, in its closing submissions to the public inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the death of Baha Mousa and the treatment of those detained with him by UK armed forces in Iraq in 2003, the UK Ministry of Defence stated regarding common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions: “On its face this protection is restricted to armed conflicts not of an international character. However, it is understood to apply in all forms of armed conflict as part of customary international law to set out the irreducible minimum standard.”