Principles of International Humanitarian Law
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Principles of International Humanitarian Law

Jonathan Crowe and Kylie Weston-Scheuber

This book provides a clear and concise explanation of the central principles of international humanitarian law (or the law of armed conflict) while situating them in a broader philosophical, ethical and legal context.
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Chapter 5: Protection of combatants hors de combat

Jonathan Crowe and Kylie Weston-Scheuber


Combatants are protected by the law of armed conflict in a number of different ways. Combatants engaged in active hostilities are protected by the restrictions on means and methods of warfare discussed in Chapter 3. The prohibition against inflicting superfluous injury, for example, exists primarily for the protection of combatants. Combatants also benefit from the restrictions on means and methods of warfare imposed by the doctrine of military necessity, the prohibitions on specific types of weapons deemed to cause unnecessary suffering and the rules concerning perfidy and forbidden orders. This chapter, by contrast, is concerned with the protections afforded to combatants placed hors de combat (outside the fight) through capture, injury or other forms of incapacitation. Article 41 of Additional Protocol I provides that a person shall be regarded as hors de combat if she or he is in the power of an adverse party, has clearly indicated an intention to surrender or has been rendered unconscious or incapacitated by wounds or sickness and is therefore incapable of defending her- or himself. The provision further stipulates that persons hors de combat are not to be attacked.

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