Challenges to Adjudication and Investigation
Edited by Fausto Pocar, Marco Pedrazzi and Micaela Frulli
Chapter 6: Using human shields as a war crime
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) study on customary international humanitarian law (IHL) summarizes the various prohibitions against using human shields contained in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (GCs), in Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions, relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts of 8 June 1977 (AP I) and in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) of 17 July 1998 as ‘couched in terms of using the presence (or movements) of civilians or other protected persons to render certain points or areas (or military forces) immune from military operations’. Therefore human shields can be civilians or persons belonging to other protected categories, such as prisoners of war or ‘hors de combat’ or in substance, all persons who ‘shall not be the object of attack’. These persons become human shields whenever they are placed (or place themselves) or are directed to move (or move) in, around, or close to, certain points, areas or people, in order to shield those items from military operations.
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