United States of America
Practice Relating to Rule 67. Inviolability of Parlementaires
The US Field Manual (1956) states:
[A parlementaire] has the right to inviolability, as well as the trumpeter, bugler or drummer, the flag-bearer and the interpreter who may accompany him.
Fire should not be intentionally directed on parlementaires or those accompanying them. If, however, the parlementaires or those near them present themselves during an engagement and are killed or wounded, it furnishes no ground for complaint. It is the duty of the parlementaire to select a propitious moment for displaying his flag, such as during the intervals of active operations, and to avoid the dangerous zones by making a detour.
The manual further states: “In addition to the ‘grave breaches’ of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the following acts are representative of violations of the law of war (‘war crimes’): … firing on the flag of truce.”
The US Air Force Pamphlet (1976) provides: “In addition to the grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 1949, the following acts are representative of situations involving individual criminal responsibility: … deliberate firing on … the flag of truce.”
The US Instructor’s Guide (1985) states: “In addition to the grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, the following acts are further examples of war crimes: … firing on the flag of truce”.
The US Naval Handbook (1995) stipulates: “Enemy forces displaying a white flag should be permitted an opportunity … to communicate a request for cease-fire or negotiation.”
The Handbook adds: “The following acts are representative war crimes: … firing on flags of truce.”
The US Naval Handbook (2007) states: “Enemy forces displaying a white flag should be permitted an opportunity to … communicate a request for cease-fire or negotiation.”
The Handbook further states that “firing on flags of truce” is an example of an act that could be considered a war crime.
In 1951, in the 27th Report of the UN Command Operations in Korea to the UN Security Council, the United States reported the following incidents:
On 9 August, General Nam Il, through his Liaison Officer, claimed that the United Nations Command had violated its guarantees by attacking a Communist vehicle plainly marked with white cloth and carrying a white flag. The sole guarantee ever given by United Nations Command Liaison Officer with regard to aircraft refraining from the attack of the Communists delegations’ vehicles was contingent upon their being properly marked and upon prior notification being given of the time and route of their movement. The latter specification had not been complied with and United Nations aircraft did machine gun the truck. The United Nations Command cannot accept the risk of its forces entailed in refraining from attacks on any vehicles observed in rear of the battle zone except those reported by the Communist delegation as being in the service of the delegation. On 14 August, the Communists complained of a like incident. They have been informed again that the United Nations Command provides no immunity for vehicles unless the time and route of movement have been communicated to the United Nations Command.
On the basis of the US position with regard to the incidents described in the 27th Report of the UN Command Operations in Korea to the UN Security Council in 1951, the Report on US Practice states:
In principle, parlementaires advancing under a white flag should be respected, but in practice advance arrangements should be made to ensure respect for them. While within their own lines, they cannot rely solely on the white flag to protect them or their vehicles from air attack or other indirect fire.