United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 65. Perfidy
Section D. Simulation of surrender
The UK Military Manual (1958), in connection with the requirements to be granted the status of combatant, notes in particular that irregular troops “should have been warned against the employment of treachery [and] improper conduct towards flags of truce”.
The manual states: “It would be treachery for a soldier … to pretend that he had surrendered and afterwards to open fire upon or attack an enemy who was treating him as hors de combat
or a prisoner.”
The manual further states: “Surrender must not be feigned in order to take the enemy at a disadvantage when he advances to secure his prisoners.”
The manual also stresses: “Abuse of a flag of truce constitutes gross perfidy and entitles the injured party to take reprisals or to try the offenders if captured.”
Moreover, the manual states: “In addition to the ‘grave breaches’ of the 1949 [Geneva] Conventions, … the following are examples of punishable violations of the laws of war, or war crimes: … treacherous request for quarter.”
The UK LOAC Pamphlet (1981) gives “the feigning of an intent to surrender” as an example of treachery.
The Pamphlet also states: “Abuse of the white flag is treachery.”
According to the UK LOAC Manual (2004), “the feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of surrender” is an example of prohibited perfidy, “if done with intent to betray the enemy’s confidence”.
In its chapter on negotiations between belligerents, the manual further explains:
It is forbidden to make improper use of a flag of truce. Thus, a feigned intention to negotiate or surrender with the intention of using the white flag as cover for the collection of information might amount to the war crime of perfidy whatever the consequences. It would amount to a grave breach of Additional Protocol I if it resulted in death or serious injury. A parlementaire who abuses his position in this way can be taken as a prisoner of war and tried.
In its chapter on maritime warfare, the manual states that launching an attack while feigning surrender is an example of perfidy.
The UK Geneva Conventions Act (1957), as amended in 1995, punishes “any person, whatever his nationality, who, whether in or outside the United Kingdom, commits, or aids, abets or procures the commission by any other person of, a grave breach of … [the 1977 Additional Protocol I]”.
Under the UK ICC Act (2001), it is a punishable offence to commit a war crime as defined in Article 8(2)(b)(vii) of the 1998 ICC Statute.
At the Battle of Goose Green during the War in the South Atlantic, Argentine soldiers raised a white flag. As UK soldiers moved forward to accept the surrender, they were fired on and killed from a neighbouring position, probably in the confusion.
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Commons, the UK Secretary of State for Defence stated:
Coalition commanders have expressed considerable concern about the practice – which we have seen on more than one occasion – of Iraqi soldiers apparently surrendering but then attacking the forces to whom they appeared to be surrendering. That is clearly a serious breach of the Geneva convention and one that we will continue to highlight when appropriate.