Practice Relating to Rule 106. Conditions for Prisoner-of-War Status
Section A. Distinction from the civilian population
Switzerland’s Basic Military Manual (1987) states:
In order to increase the protection of the civilian population against the effects of hostilities, combatants must distinguish themselves from the civilian population by wearing a uniform, before and during an attack.
The manual further states:
All members of the regular armed forces wear a uniform … The uniform allows for a distinction to be made between friendly and enemy armed forces, on the one hand, and between armed forces and civilians, on the other hand.
Switzerland’s Regulation on Legal Bases for Conduct during an Engagement (2005) states:
12.1 The principle of distinction
159 Hostilities must be directed exclusively against combatants and military objectives. Respect for this rule is only possible if combatants and military objectives can be distinguished from protected persons and objects. Such means include wearing a uniform or at least openly bearing weapons while engaged in an attack.
In 2010, in its Report on IHL and Current Armed Conflicts, Switzerland’s Federal Council stated:
International humanitarian law establishes criteria for the granting of combatant status
. It is primarily for members of the armed forces of a party to the conflict but also for members of other militias. For this, combatants must carry their arms openly, be recognizable (generally by a uniform), be under a responsible command and act in conformity with international humanitarian law in their operations.
[footnotes in original omitted; emphasis in original]