Even in wartime, nobody goes unprotected

Jonathan Crowe

Research output: Contribution to journalOnline ResourceProfessional


This World Humanitarian Day, it is timely to remember that even wars have limits. International Humanitarian Law protects everyone involved in armed conflict, regardless of their status. There are multiple tiers of protection, designed to ensure that nobody falls outside the reach of the law.

Prisoner of war status
The international law of armed conflict centres on the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which have been ratified by all recognised states, and their two Additional Protocols of 1977. Geneva Convention III relates to prisoners of war: that is, privileged combatants captured by opposing forces.

Article 4 of Geneva Convention III sets out the classes of people who are entitled to prisoner of war status. The main category is members of the regular armed forces of a party to the conflict. Members of organised militias are also entitled to prisoner of war status, provided that they bear arms openly and wear a uniform or other distinctive sign. A similar (although slightly wider) definition of combatant status appears in Additional Protocol I.

The benefits of prisoner of war status under Geneva Convention III are extensive and detailed. However, prisoner of war status is far from the only form of protection afforded to participants in armed conflict.
Original languageEnglish
JournalElgar Blog
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes


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