Practice Relating to Rule 89. Violence to Life
Israel’s Manual on the Laws of War (1998) states: “It is strictly forbidden to cause (by act or omission) the death of a prisoner of war after he has surrendered or to put him in a situation that endangers his health and physical integrity.”
Israel’s Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) states:
[K]illing prisoners-of-war after they have surrendered will not necessarily weaken the enemy’s army, it will merely cause unnecessary suffering, and such actions are morally tainted on humanitarian grounds.
Many of the customs that are accepted today, such as raising the hands to indicate surrender, allowing prisoners-of-war to remain alive … and so on, originate in the Middle Ages.
Attacking a combatant who has surrendered is murder and the same also applies to attacking a combatant who has been wounded and has ceased to pose a threat to our forces.
It is strictly forbidden to cause the death (deliberately or by neglect) of a prisoner-of-war after he has surrendered and to put him in a situation in which his health or physical being are threatened.
The Manual on the Rules of Warfare (2006) is a second edition of the Manual on the Laws of War (1998).
Israel’s Nazis and Nazi Collaborators (Punishment) Law (1950) includes in its definition of war crimes the following acts: “murder of [the] civilian population of or in occupied territories; murder of … prisoners of war and persons on the seas”.
The law also punishes persons who have committed a crime against humanity, including “extermination [of] … any civilian population”.
In its judgment in the Eichmann case
in 1962, Israel’s District Court of Jerusalem found the accused guilty of “crimes against the Jewish people … in the territories of the Axis States, in the area occupied by Germany and by the Axis States”. The Court found the accused “caused the killings of millions of Jews for the purpose of executing the plan known as the ‘Final Solution’ with the intent to exterminate the Jewish people”. The Court also found the accused responsible for crimes against humanity and war crimes for murder and extermination of the civilian population carried out to persecute Jews.
In its judgment in the Eichmann case
in 1962, Israel’s Supreme Court confirmed the sentence of the District Court of Jerusalem, which found the appellant, Adolf Eichmann, guilty of “offences of the most gravity against the Nazi and Nazi Collaborators Law”, in particular the killing of millions of Jews for the purpose of carrying out the “Final Solution” with the intent to exterminate the Jewish people through murder and extermination of the civilian Jewish population.
In its judgment in the Murar case in 2006, Israel’s High Court of Justice stated:
It is well-known that the right to life and physical integrity is the most basic right that lies at the heart of the humanitarian laws that are intended to protect the local population in the territories held under the laws of belligerent occupation (see HCJ 3799/02 Adalah Legal Centre for Arab Minority Rights in Israel v. IDF Central Commander
, at para. 23 of the opinion of President Barak). This right is also enshrined in Israeli constitutional law in ss. 2 and 4 of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, and there is no doubt at all that this is a right that is on the highest normative echelon (see HCJ 1730/96 Sabiah v. IDF Commander in Judaea and Samaria
, at p. 368; HCJ 2753/03 Kirsch v. IDF Chief of Staff
, at pp. 377–378). All the residents of the territories – both Palestinians and Israelis – are therefore entitled to enjoy the right to life and physical integrity, and a fundamental and primary criterion that the military commander should consider when deciding to close areas is the criterion of the protection of the life and physical integrity of all the residents in the territories.
In 1973, during a debate in the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly on the protection of human rights in times of armed conflict, Israel accused the Syrian Arab Republic of killing and maltreating Israeli prisoners of war.