Section E. Grouping of graves according to nationality
Geneva Convention I
Article 17, third paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention I provides that graves shall be “grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased”.
Geneva Convention III
Article 120, fourth paragraph, of the 1949 Geneva Convention III provides: “Whenever possible, deceased prisoners of war who depended on the same Power shall be interred in the same place.”
NATO Standardization Agreement 2070
Paragraph 9 of the 1999 NATO Standardization Agreement 2070 states: “Burials are to be grouped by nationalities. Different areas for separate graves, trench or group burials are to be allotted to each nationality.”
Argentina’s Law of War Manual (1969) provides that graves “shall be grouped if possible according to the nationality of the dead”.
Australia’s Defence Force Manual (1994) provides that the graves of the deceased shall “be grouped by nationality”.
Australia’s LOAC Manual (2006) states that the graves of the deceased shall be “grouped by nationality”.
The LOAC Manual (2006) replaces both the Defence Force Manual (1994) and the Commanders’ Guide (1994).
Cameroon’s Instructors’ Manual (1992) provides that the deceased shall be buried by nationality.
Cameroon’s Instructor’s Manual (2006), under the heading “The Case of Deceased Prisoners of War”, states: “The deceased of the same nationality must be buried at the same place.”
Canada’s Prisoner of War Handling and Detainees Manual (2004) states with regard to the funeral arrangements for prisoners of war (PW): “Wherever possible, deceased PW who depended on the same Power are [to be] buried in the same location.”
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands provides: “Graves shall be grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “Mortal remains must be located according to nationality, as far as possible.”
Poland’s Procedures Governing the Interment of Soldiers Killed in Action (2009) states: “When selecting the burial site and digging the graves, the aim should be to ensure that: … [they] are grouped according to nationality”.
The Procedures also states: “Civilian members of the armed forces who had not participated in hostilities shall be buried in line with procedures established for the burial of the bodies of soldiers.”
South Africa’s LOAC Teaching Manual (2008) states:
- Parties to the conflict shall further ensure that[:]
- the dead are honourably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged;
- their graves are grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased[.]
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) states: “Graves must be respected and properly maintained. They must be marked so that they may always be found and should, if possible, be grouped according to the nationality of the deceased.”
United States of America
The US Field Manual (1956) provides that the “graves [of the dead] are … grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased”.
Yugoslavia, Socialist Federal Republic of
The Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia’s Military Manual (1988) provides that military graves should, if possible, be grouped by nationality.
Bangladesh’s International Crimes (Tribunal) Act (1973) states that the “violation of any humanitarian rules applicable in armed conflicts laid down in the Geneva Conventions of 1949” is a crime.
Denmark’s Military Criminal Code (1973), as amended in 1978, provides:
Any person who uses war instruments or procedures the application of which violates an international agreement entered into by Denmark or the general rules of international law, shall be liable to the same penalty [i.e. a fine, lenient imprisonment or up to 12 years’ imprisonment].
Denmark’s Military Criminal Code (2005) provides:
Any person who deliberately uses war means [“krigsmiddel”] or procedures the application of which violates an international agreement entered into by Denmark or international customary law, shall be liable to the same penalty [i.e. imprisonment up to life imprisonment].
Under Ireland’s Geneva Conventions Act (1962), as amended in 1998, any “minor breach” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including violations of Article 17 of the Geneva Convention I and Article 120 of the Geneva Convention III, is a punishable offence.
Norway’s Military Penal Code (1902), as amended in 1981, provides:
Anyone who contravenes or is accessory to the contravention of provisions relating to the protection of persons or property laid down in … the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 … is liable to imprisonment.
UN Commission of Experts Established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1992)
In 1994, in its final report on grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions and other violations of IHL committed in the former Yugoslavia, the UN Commission of Experts Established pursuant to Security Council Resolution 780 (1992) stated, with respect to its investigation into mass graves: “Victims should be grouped by nationality.”
To fulfil its task of disseminating IHL, the ICRC has delegates around the world teaching armed and security forces that: “Wherever possible, the dead of the same nationality shall be buried at the same place.”