When someone is captured, you may not be certain
YOUR CONDUCT UNDER THE
whether the person is an enemy. That determination is
LAWS OF ARMED CONFLICT
made by specifically trained personnel at a higher
The laws of armed conflict tell you what you can
headquarters. You may question captives about military
and cannot do in combat situations. With the training
information of immediate value to your mission, but you
you receive, you will have the necessary discipline to do
may never use threats, torture, or other forms of coercion
the right thing. But if you do not learn how to conduct
to obtain information.
yourself in combat, you will be punished for mistakes.
You may not take personal property from a prisoner,
All persons in uniform, carrying a weapon or
except those items that are clearly of a military or
participating in any way in military operations or
activities, are known as combatants. Under the laws of
documents). You do this only after the prisoner has been
armed conflict, only combatants are considered proper
secured, silenced, and segregated. You take nothing that
targets and may be fired upon. All others are called
is not of military value. Only an officer may take custody
noncombatants. Noncombatants include civilians,
of the personal effects of a prisoner.
medical personnel, and chaplains. Knowing the
Captives may perform some types of work but the
difference between combatants and noncombatants in
work must not relate to assisting your war effort. The
guerrilla war situations may sometimes be difficult and
acceptable work performed must be limited to allowing
require great care. Humane treatment of noncombatants
captives to dig foxholes or build bunkers only for their
own protection. Under the laws of armed conflict, you
pursue your mission. If you are in doubt about the
may never use captives as a shield for your attack or
differences between combatants and noncombatants,
defense against the enemy; to search for, clear, or place
consult your superior before pursuing a course of action.
mines or booby traps; or to carry your ammunition or
Under the rules of armed conflict, you are not
permitted to attack villages, towns, or cities. But you are
Never attack enemy soldiers who surrender or
allowed to engage the enemy that is in a village, town,
enemy soldiers who are captured, sick, or wounded.
or city and to destroy any equipment or supplies that the
When you have prisoners of war (POWs), you should
enemy has there when it is mission essential. In all cases,
follow the six Ss: search, secure, silence, segregate,
you must not create more destruction than is necessary
safeguard, and speed the prisoners to the rear. You must
to accomplish the mission. When using firepower in a
never kill, torture, or mistreat a prisoner because such
populated area, you must attack only military targets.
actions are a violation of the law. Besides, prisoners may
You may not attack PROTECTED PROPERTY.
provide you with vital information about the enemy.
While some protected property may mean little to you,
Treating a prisoner badly also discourages other enemy
the property in question maybe of cultural importance
soldiers from surrendering, and it strengthens their will
to the people of the country. Examples of protected
to resist. But if you treat prisoners well, your fairness
property include buildings dedicated to religion, art,
encourages the enemy to treat their prisoners (your
science, or charitable purposes; historical monuments;
buddies) well. Humane treatment of POWs is right,
hospitals and places where the sick and wounded are
honorable, and required under the laws of armed
collected and cared for; and schools and orphanages for
conflict. Improper treatment of prisoners by you is
children. When the enemy uses these places for refuge
punishable by court-martial.
or for offensive purposes, your commander may order
Let enemy soldiers surrender. The enemy may use
an attack. It is common sense to destroy no more than
different signals to convey they are surrendering, but all
the minimum amount of protected property consistent
of the signals should be noticeable. It is illegal to fire on
with carrying out the mission. To do more may
an enemy that has thrown down their weapons and
undermine your mission.
offered to surrender.
You should also provide medical care to the
wounded whether friend or foe. You are required under
the laws of armed conflict to provide the same medical
Earlier in this chapter, the reasons for knowing as
care to the sick and wounded as you would provide for
much as possible about the country in which you are
your own personnel.
operating was discussed. Once there, you need to treat