Non-combatant is a term in the law of war describing civilians not taking a direct part in hostilities, as well as (under Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions, adopted in June 1977) persons such as medical personnel and military chaplains who are regular soldiers but are protected because of their function as well as soldiers who are hors de combat ("outside the fight"); that is, sick, wounded, detained, or otherwise disabled.
Article 50 Protocol I defines a civilian is not a privileged combatant. Article 51 describes the protection that must be given to civilians (unless they are unprivileged combatants) and civilian populations. Chapter III of Protocol I regulates the targeting of civilian objects. Article 8(2)(b)(i) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court also prohibits attacks directed against civilians. Not all states have ratified Protocol I or the Rome Statute, but it is an accepted principle of international humanitarian law that the direct targeting of civilians is a breach of the customary laws of war and is binding on all belligerents.
Article 3 in the general section of the Geneva Conventions states that in the case of armed conflict not of an international character (occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties) that each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions to non-combatants: They shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:
- (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
- (b) taking of hostages;
- (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
- (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
Notes and references
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non-combatant — non combatants (in AM, usually use noncombatant) 1) N COUNT: usu N n Non combatant troops are members of the armed forces whose duties do not include fighting. The General does not like non combatant personnel near a scene of action. Ant:… … English dictionary
non-combatant — [ US ˌ. .ˈ..] n 1.) someone who is in the army, navy etc during a war but who does not actually fight, for example an army doctor 2.) someone who is not in the army, navy etc during a war = ↑civilian >non combatant adj ▪ non combatant military … Dictionary of contemporary English
non-combatant — (n.) also noncombatant, 1809, from NON (Cf. non ) + COMBATANT (Cf. combatant). A word from the Napoleonic wars … Etymology dictionary
non-combatant — ► NOUN ▪ a person who is not engaged in fighting during a war, especially a civilian, army chaplain, or army doctor … English terms dictionary
non-combatant — UK / US noun [countable] Word forms non combatant : singular non combatant plural non combatants someone who is not involved in fighting during a war … English dictionary
non-combatant — /nɒn kəmˈbætənt/ (say non kuhm batuhnt), /nɒn ˈkɒmbətənt / (say non kombuhtuhnt) noun 1. someone who is not a combatant; a civilian in time of war. 2. a person connected with a military or naval force in some capacity other than that of a fighter … Australian English dictionary
non-combatant — noun a person who is not engaged in fighting during a war, especially a civilian, army chaplain, or army doctor … English new terms dictionary
non-combatant — noun (C) someone who is in the army, navy etc during a war but who does not actually fight, for example an army doctor … Longman dictionary of contemporary English
ˌnon-ˈcombatant — noun [C] someone who is not involved in fighting during a war … Dictionary for writing and speaking English
non-combatant — A person connected with an army or navy, but for purposes other than fighting; such as the surgeons and chaplains or conscientious objectors. Also a neutral … Black's law dictionary