Feigning civilian status violates laws of war - Human Rights Watch

[JURIST] The New York-based monitoring group Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] says that feigning civilian or noncombatant status to deceive the enemy is a violation of the laws of war. In a statement released Monday following a weekend suicide bombing of American troops and a declaration by Iraq's Vice-President that such attacks would become "routine military policy", HRW noted that they constituted "perfidy" and were illegal under internationally-recognized legal norms:

International law prohibits attacking, killing, injuring, capturing or deceiving the enemy by resorting to what is called perfidy. A perfidious attack is one launched by combatants who have led opposing forces to believe that the attackers are really noncombatants. Acts of perfidy include pretending to be a civilian (who cannot be attacked) or feigning surrender (surrendering soldiers also cannot be attacked) so that opposing forces will let down their guard at the moment of attack. Other examples include feigning protective status by the misuse of emblems of the United Nations or the red cross and red crescent. Perfidy poses particular dangers because it blurs the distinction between enemy soldiers, who are a valid target, and civilians and other noncombatants, who are not. Soldiers fearful of perfidious attacks are more likely to fire upon civilians and surrendering soldiers, however unlawfully.
Read the full HRW statement.


 

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