In general, a civilian is "a person who is not a member of the military or of a police or firefighting force".The definition distinguishes from persons whose duties involves risking their lives to protect the public at large from hazardous situations such as terrorism, riots, conflagrations, or wars. It also does not include "criminals" in the category, as authorities and the media wants to distinguish between those who are law-abiding and those who are not.
A military is a heavily-armed highly-organised force primarily intended for warfare, also known as an armed force, typically officially authorized and maintained by a sovereign state, with its members identifiable by their distinct military uniform. It may consist of one or more military branches such as an Army, Navy, Air Force and in certain countries, Marines and Coast Guard. The main task of the military is usually defined as defence of the state and its interests against external armed threats. Beyond warfare, the military may be employed in additional sanctioned and non-sanctioned functions within the state, including internal security threats, population control, the promotion of a political agenda, emergency services and reconstruction, protecting corporate economic interests, social ceremonies and national honor guards. For a nation's military may function as a discrete subculture within a larger civil society, through the development of separate infrastructures, which may include housing, schools, utilities, logistics, health and medical, law, food production, finance and banking.
The police are a constituted body of persons empowered by a state to enforce the law, to protect the lives, liberty and possessions of citizens, and to prevent crime and civil disorder. Their powers include the power of arrest and the legitimized use of force. The term is most commonly associated with the police forces of a sovereign state that are authorized to exercise the police power of that state within a defined legal or territorial area of responsibility. Police forces are often defined as being separate from the military and other organizations involved in the defense of the state against foreign aggressors; however, gendarmerie are military units charged with civil policing. Police forces are usually public sector services, funded through taxes.
A firefighter is a rescuer extensively trained in firefighting, primarily to extinguish hazardous fires that threaten life, property and the environment as well as to rescue people and animals from dangerous situations.
Under the law of war, the term "civilian" is a person who is not a combatant and is not a member of the military.It is slightly different from a non-combatant, as some non-combatants are not civilians (for example, military chaplains attached to the belligerent armed forces or military personnel serving with a neutral country). Under international law, civilians in the territories of a party to an armed conflict are entitled to certain privileges under the customary laws of war and international treaties such as the Fourth Geneva Convention. The privileges that they enjoy under international law depends on whether the conflict is an internal one (a civil war) or an international one.
The law of war refers to the component of international law that regulates the conditions for war and the conduct of warring parties. Laws of war define sovereignty and nationhood, states and territories, occupation, and other critical terms of international law.
Combatant is the legal status of an individual who has the right to engage in hostilities during an international armed conflict. The legal definition of "combatant" is found at article 43 of Additional Protocol One to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [AP1]. It states that "Members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict are combatants, that is to say, they have the right to participate directly in hostilities."
Non-combatant is a term of art in the law of war and international humanitarian law, describing civilians who are not taking a direct part in hostilities; persons—such as combat medics and military chaplains—who are members of the belligerent armed forces but are protected because of their specific duties ; combatants who are placed hors de combat; and neutral persons not involved in fighting for one of the belligerents involved in a war. This particular status was first recognized under the Geneva Conventions with the First Geneva Convention of 1864.
The word "civilian" goes back to the late 14th century and is from Old French civilien, "of the civil law". Civilian is believed to have been used to refer to non-combatants as early as 1829. The term "non-combatant" now refers to people in general who are not taking part of hostilities, rather than just civilians.
Old French was the language spoken in Northern France from the 8th century to the 14th century. In the 14th century, these dialects came to be collectively known as the langue d'oïl, contrasting with the langue d'oc or Occitan language in the south of France. The mid-14th century is taken as the transitional period to Middle French, the language of the French Renaissance, specifically based on the dialect of the Île-de-France region.
The International Committee of the Red Cross 1958 Commentary on 1949 Geneva Convention IV Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War states: "Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, or again, a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law. We feel that this is a satisfactory solution – not only satisfying to the mind, but also, and above all, satisfactory from the humanitarian point of view."The ICRC has expressed the opinion that "If civilians directly engage in hostilities, they are considered 'unlawful' or 'unprivileged' combatants or belligerents (the treaties of humanitarian law do not expressly contain these terms). They may be prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland, and a three-time Nobel Prize Laureate. State parties (signatories) to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005 have given the ICRC a mandate to protect victims of international and internal armed conflicts. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants.
International law is the set of rules generally regarded and accepted in relations between nations. It serves as a framework for the practice of stable and organized international relations. International law differs from state-based legal systems in that it is primarily applicable to countries rather than to individual citizens. National law may become international law when treaties permit national jurisdiction to supranational tribunals such as the European Court of Human Rights or the International Criminal Court. Treaties such as the Geneva Conventions may require national law to conform to respective parts.
A prisoner of war (POW) is a person, whether combatant or non-combatant, who is held in custody by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict. The earliest recorded usage of the phrase "prisoner of war" dates to 1660.
Article 50 of the 1977 Protocol I Additional to the Geneva Conventions provides:
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international conflicts, where "armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes" are to be considered international conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern international warfare that have taken place since the Second World War.
The definition is negative and defines civilians as persons who do not belong to definite categories. The categories of persons mentioned in Article 4A(1), (2), (3) and (6) of the Third Convention and in Article 43 of the Protocol I are combatants. Therefore, the Commentary to the Protocol pointed that, any one who is not a member of the armed forces and does not take of hostilities is a civilian. Civilians cannot take part in armed conflict. Civilians are given protection under the Geneva Conventions and Protocols thereto. Article 51 describes the protection that must be given to the civilian population and individual civilians.
Chapter III of Protocol I regulates the targeting of civilian objects. Article 8(2)(b)(i) of the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court also includes this in its list of war crimes: "Intentionally directing attacks against the civilian population as such or against individual civilians not taking part in hostilities". Not all states have ratified 1977 Protocol I or the 1998 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.
The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is the treaty that established the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on 17 July 1998 and it entered into force on 1 July 2002. As of March 2019, 124 states are party to the statute. Among other things, the statute establishes the court's functions, jurisdiction and structure.
The actual position of the civilian in modern war remains problematic.It is complicated by a number of phenomena, including:
Starting in the 1980s, it was often claimed that 90 percent of the victims of modern wars were civilians.The claim was repeated on Wikipedia's Did You Know on 14 December 2010. These claims, though widely believed, are not supported by detailed examination of the evidence, particularly that relating to wars (such as those in former Yugoslavia and in Afghanistan) that are central to the claims.
In the opening years of the twenty-first century, despite the many problems associated with it, the legal category of the civilian has been the subject of considerable attention in public discourse, in the media and at the United Nations, and in justification of certain uses of armed force to protect endangered populations. It has "lost none of its political, legal and moral salience."
Although it is often assumed that civilians are essentially passive onlookers of war, sometimes they have active roles in conflicts. These may be quasi-military, as when in November 1975 the Moroccan government organized the "green march" of civilians to cross the border into the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara to claim the territory for Morocco - all at the same time as Moroccan forces entered the territory clandestinely.In addition, and without necessarily calling into question their status as non-combatants, civilians sometimes take part in campaigns of nonviolent civil resistance as a means of opposing dictatorial rule or foreign occupation: sometimes such campaigns happen at the same time as armed conflicts or guerrilla insurrections, but they are usually distinct from them as regards both their organization and participation.
Officials directly involved in the maiming of civilians are conducting offensive military operations and do not qualify as civilians.
The International Humanitarian Law codifies treaties and conventions, signed and enforced by participating states, which serve to protect civilians during intra and interstate conflict. Even for non-treaty participants, it is customary for international law to still apply.Additionally, the IHL adheres to the principles of distinction, proportionality, and necessity; which apply to the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Although, despite the UN deploying military and civilians to protect civilians it lacks formal policies or military manuals addressing exactly these efforts. The UN Security Council Report No 4: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict provides further evidence of the need for protection of civilians. Recognizing that large-scale civilian insecurity threatens international peace and stability, the UN aims to establish the means of protecting civilians and thereby work to ensure regional stability. Through the UN Security Council Report No 4, first published in 2008, the UN offers ways to support civilian protections in both intra and interstate conflict with a goal of encouraging regional states to police their own conflicts (such as the African Union policing African conflicts). Similarly, the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reminded UN Member states that they have common interests in protecting African civilians through a shared “commitments to human security, and its rationale of indivisibility of peace and security.”
Through a series of resolutions (1265, 1296, 1502, 1674, & 1738) and presidential statements the UN Security Council “addresses:
The Security Council is now involved in the protection of civilians in five main areas of action.
In response to Presidential statements and previous subcommittee work, the UN Security Council held a meeting in January 2009, specifically to address the protection of civilians within the context of the IHL.While no specific outcome followed this meeting, it did lead to the production of a 10-year assessment of Council actions since the passing of resolution 1265 in 1999.
In addition to the UN treaties, regional treaties have also been established, such as the African Union Constitutive Act Article 4(h) which also outlines the protection of civilians and “affords the Union a right to forcibly intervene in one of its member states in ‘grave circumstances’, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.”This is proposed to indicate the African Union will no longer stand by to watch atrocities happen within the Union. As described by Said Djinnit (AU’s Commissioner for Peace and Security) in 2004, “Africans cannot [...] watch the tragedies developing in the continent and say it is the UN’s responsibility or somebody else’s responsibility. We have moved from the concept of non-interference to non-indifference. We cannot, as Africans, remain indifferent to the tragedy of our people” (IRIN News 2004). Although Article 4(h), while drafted, has not been activated, which begs the question of the AU's willingness to intervene in situations of “grave circumstance.”
Regardless of the lead organization (UN, AU, other) “there is clearly a risk involved for international organizations that in assuming a complicated security role such as civilian protection, they may raise expectations among local populations that cannot be met, usually not even by large-scale peace operations with a comprehensive political component, supported by high force levels, overall professionalism, and the political stamina to stay present long-term. The disappointing outcomes, in Africa and elsewhere, have led some to criticize the way in which the decentralization policies have been implemented (MacFarlane and Weiss 1992; Berman 1998; Boulden 2003).”
A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, such as strategic bombing of civilian populations.
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949. While the first three conventions dealt with combatants, the Fourth Geneva Convention was the first to deal with humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone. There are currently 196 countries party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including this and the other three treaties.
Civilian casualties occurs in a general sense, when civilians are killed or injured by non-civilians, mostly law enforcement officers, military personnel, or criminals such as terrorists and bank robbers. Under the law of war, it is referred to civilians who perished or suffered wounds as a result of wartime acts. In both cases, they can be associated with the outcome of any form of action regardless of whether civilians were targeted directly or not.
An unlawful combatant, illegal combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent is a person who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war or is fighting outside of internationally recognized military forces. An unlawful combatant may be detained or prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action, subject to international treaties on justice and human rights.
International humanitarian law (IHL) is the law that regulates the conduct of war. It is that branch of international law which seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict by protecting persons who are not participating in hostilities, and by restricting and regulating the means and methods of warfare available to combatants.
Protocol II is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts. It defines certain international laws that strive to provide better protection for victims of internal armed conflicts that take place within the borders of a single country. The scope of these laws is more limited than those of the rest of the Geneva Conventions out of respect for sovereign rights and duties of national governments.
Protective signs are symbols to be used during an armed conflict to mark persons and objects under the protection of various treaties of international humanitarian law (IHL). While their essential meaning can be summarized as "Don't shoot" or "Don't attack", the exact conditions implied vary depending on the respective sign and the circumstances of its use. The form, shape and color of these signs are defined by the rules of IHL. Usually, they are easy to draw in order to make even an improvised use as easy as possible, and they were chosen to be as concise, recognizable and visible as possible under all circumstances.
Distinction is a principle under international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict, whereby belligerents must distinguish between combatants and civilians. Distinction and proportionality are important factors in assessing military necessity in that the harm caused to civilians or civilian property must be proportional and not "excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated" by an attack on a military objective.
The United Nations Mercenary Convention, officially the International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, is a 2001 United Nations treaty that prohibits the recruitment, training, use, and financing of mercenaries. At the 72nd plenary meeting on 4 December 1989, the United Nations General Assembly concluded the convention as its resolution 44/34. The convention entered into force on 20 October 2001 and has been ratified by 35 states.
Air warfare must comply with laws and customs of war, including international humanitarian law by protecting the victims of the conflict and refraining from attacks on protected persons.
The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in war. The singular term Geneva Convention usually denotes the agreements of 1949, negotiated in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–45), which updated the terms of the two 1929 treaties, and added two new conventions. The Geneva Conventions extensively defined the basic rights of wartime prisoners, established protections for the wounded and sick, and established protections for the civilians in and around a war-zone. The treaties of 1949 were ratified, in whole or with reservations, by 196 countries. Moreover, the Geneva Convention also defines the rights and protections afforded to non-combatants, yet, because the Geneva Conventions are about people in war, the articles do not address warfare proper—the use of weapons of war—which is the subject of the Hague Conventions, and the bio-chemical warfare Geneva Protocol.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1738, adopted unanimously on December 23, 2006, after reaffirming resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), 1502 (2003) and 1674 (2006) on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, the Council condemned attacks against journalists in conflict situations. It was the last resolution adopted by the Security Council in 2006.
Sexual violence includes, but is not limited to rape. Although there is no agreed upon definition of sexual violence, commonly applied ones encompass any act of a sexual nature or attempt to obtain a sexual act carried out through coercion. Sexual violence also includes physical and psychological violence directed at a person's sexuality, including unwanted comments or advances, or acts of traffic such as forced prostitution or sexual slavery.
Protected persons is a legal term under international humanitarian law and refers to persons who are under specific protection of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, their 1977 Additional Protocols, and customary international humanitarian law during an armed conflict.
The Army Medical Service is a non-combat specialty branch of the German Army traditionally responsible for providing medical services within the army, and which has a humanitarian function during armed conflicts in accordance with international humanitarian law, and specific rights and responsibilities under the Geneva Conventions, their additional protocols and customary international humanitarian law. It is entitled under international humanitarian law to use the red cross as a protective sign and its personnel are protected persons under international humanitarian law. Since 2002, most of its former responsibilities have been transferred to the Joint Medical Service. The Army Medical Service still exists as a small entity within the German military.
Human shields may be civilians used against their will to deter attacks on military targets during an international armed conflict or they may be civilians who voluntarily protect either military or civilian targets from attack. The use of human shields is forbidden by Protocol I of the Geneva Conventions. It is also a specific intent war crime as codified in the Rome Statute, which was adopted in 1998. The language of the Rome Statute prohibits "utilizing the presence of a civilian or other protected person to render certain points, areas, or military forces immune from military operations."
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