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Civilian or Combatant?A Challenge for the 21st Century$
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Anicée Van Engeland

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199743247

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:osobl/9780199743247.001.0001

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The Distinction between Civilians and Combatants

The Distinction between Civilians and Combatants

(p.27) 2 The Distinction between Civilians and Combatants
Civilian or Combatant?

Anicée Van Engeland

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the distinction between civilians and combatants, the cornerstone of international humanitarian law. The 1977 Additional Protocols states that warring parties should distinguish between civilian population and civilian objects from combatants and military objectives. The Geneva Conventions and two Additional Protocols define different situations and kinds of people covered in their definition. Generally, a civilian is defined as an individual who has no direct part in any military action or hostilities, nor belongs to armed forces. The Conventions refrain from giving a definitive definition so as to exclude certain civilians who fall in between categories. Article 4 of the Geneva Convention III is more explicit in defining combatants as members of the armed forces of a party to the conflict, including members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed force. International humanitarian law defines who a civilian is but not what civilian properties are. To know them, one has to refer to Article 52-2 of Additional Protocol I, which properly states what these military targets are.

Keywords:   1977 Additional Protocols, Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law

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