Practice Relating to Rule 106. Conditions for Prisoner-of-War Status
Section C. Situations where combatants cannot distinguish themselves
Belgium’s Law of War Manual (1983) states:
Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinguish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that, in such situations, he carries his arms openly:
(a) during each military engagement, and
(b) during such time as he is visible to the adversary while he is engaged in a military deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate.
Acts which comply with the requirements of this paragraph shall not be considered as perfidious.
It would be preferable that Belgium only supports this rule on condition that it does not apply to operations on non-occupied Belgian territory. The term “military deployment” should, on the other hand, be interpreted very widely in the sense that it covers every movement towards the place from which an attack is to be launched. To be “visible” includes being able to “be observed” even at night by means of infrared rays and the notion “adversary” should be clarified.
Upon ratification of the 1977 Additional Protocol I, Belgium stated:
With respect to Article 44, the Belgian Government declares that the armed conflict situations described in paragraph 3 can arise only in occupied territory or in the armed conflicts covered by Article 1, paragraph 4, of the Protocol. Furthermore the Belgian Government interprets the term “deployment” used in subparagraph (b) of the said paragraph 3 as comprising any individual or collective movement towards a position from which an attack is to be launched.