Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land
The Sick and Wounded
Art. 21. The obligations of belligerents with regard to the sick and
wounded are governed by the Geneva Convention.
Means of Injuring the Enemy,
Sieges, and bombardments
Art. 22. The right of belligerents to adopt means of injuring the enemy is
Art. 23. In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions,
it is especially forbidden –
(a) To employ poison or poisoned weapons;
(b) to kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile
nation or army;
(c) To kill or wound an enemy who, having laid down his arms, or having
no longer means of defence, has surrendered at discretion;
(d) To declare that no quarter will be given;
(e) To employ arms, projectiles, or material calculated to cause
(f) To make improper use of a flag of truce, of the national flag or of
the military insignia and uniform of the enemy, as well as the
distinctive badges of the Geneva Convention;
(g) To destroy or seize the enemy’s property, unless such destruction or
seizure be imperatively demanded by the necessities of war;
(h) To declare abolished, suspended, or inadmissible in a court of law
the rights and actions of the nationals of the hostile party. A
belligerent is likewise forbidden to compel the nationals of the
hostile party to take part in the operations of war directed against
their own country , even if they were in the belligerent’s service
before the commencement of the war.
Art. 24. Ruses of war and the employment of measures necessary for
obtaining information about the enemy and the country are considered
Art. 25. The attack or bombardment, by whatever means, of towns, villages,
dwellings, or buildings which are undefended is prohibited.
Art. 26. The officer in command of an attacking force must, before
commencing a bombardment, except in cases of assault, do all in his power
to warn the authorities.
Art. 27. In sieges and bombardments all necessary steps must be taken to
spare, as far as possible, buildings dedicated to religion, art, science,
or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the
sick and wounded are collected, provided they are not being used at the
time for military purposes.
It is the duty of the besieged to indicate the presence of such buildings
or places by distinctive and visible signs, which shall be notified to the
Art. 28. The pillage of a town or place, even when taken by assault, is
Art. 29. A person can only be considered a spy when, acting clandestinely
or on false pretences, he obtains or endeavours to obtain information in
the zone of operations of a belligerent, with the intention of
communicating it to the hostile party.
Thus, soldiers not wearing a disguise who have penetrated into the zone of
operations of the hostile army, for the purpose of obtaining information,
are not considered spies. Similarly, the following are not considered
spies: Soldiers and civilians, carrying out their mission openly, entrusted
with the delivery of despatches intended either for their own army or for
the enemy’s army. To this class belong likewise persons sent in balloons
for the purpose of carrying despatches and, generally, of maintaining
communications between the different parts of an army or a territory.
Art. 30. A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous
Art. 31. A spy who, after rejoining the army to which he belongs, is
subsequently captured by the enemy, is treated as a prisoner of war, and
incurs no responsibility for his previous acts of espionage.
Flags of Truce
Art. 32. A person is regarded as a parlementaire who has been authorized by
one of the belligerents to enter into communication with the other, and who
advances bearing a white flag. He has a right to inviolability, as well as
the trumpeter, bugler or drummer, the flag-bearer and interpreter who may
Art. 33. The commander to whom a parlementaire is sent is not in all cases
obliged to receive him.
He may take all the necessary steps to prevent the parlementaire taking
advantage of his mission to obtain information.
In case of abuse, he has the right to detain the parlementaire temporarily.
Art. 34. The parlementaire loses his rights of inviolability if it is
proved in a clear and incontestable manner that he has taken advantage of
his privileged position to provoke or commit an act of treason.
References and Further Reading
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This entry was last modified: September 4, 2012