Civilian person

“Civilian” means, in an international armed conflict, any person who does not belong to the armed forces and does not take part in a “levée en masse”. In case of doubt whether a person is a civilian or not, that person must be considered to be a civilian. “Civilian” means, in a non-international armed conflict, all persons who are neither members of state armed forces nor members of an organized armed group.   Civilian population

The civilian population is made up of civilian persons. In international armed conflicts, the presence within the civilian population of individuals who do not come within the definition of civilians does not deprive the population of its civilian character. Appropriate rules protect the whole population of a party to a conflict without any adverse distinction. Both in international and non-international armed conflicts, the civilian population enjoys general protection against the dangers of military operations.

Special protection journalists See Journalists women See Women children See Children refugees and stateless persons See Refugees and Stateless persons protected persons See Protected persons





 General protection



    HR, 23(b), 25-28

    GCIV, 13-26

    PI, 48, 51, 52, 57

    CIHL, 88, 89, 90, 91, 92, 93, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105

deportation, transfer and forced evacuation (See also Deportation; Displaced persons; Evacuation)

    GCIV, 49

    PI, 85/4

    PII, 17

    CIHL, 129, 130, 131

Prohibition of discrimination

    GC Common 3 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCIV, 13, 27

    PI, 9/1, 10/2, 70/1, 73, 75/1, 85/4(c)

    CIHL, 88

treatment of persons

    HR, 44-46, 50

    GC Common 3 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCIV, 25, 26, 27, 31-34, 147

    PI, 11, 17, 74, 75, 85

    PII, 4, 6, 18

in occupied territories (See also Occupation)

    GCIV, 5/2-3, 55, 59-63, 64/2, 65

    PI, 69, 45/3, 75

attacks intended to spread terror (See also Terror)

    PI, 51/2

    PII, 13/2

prohibition of direct attack

    HR, 25

    GCIV, 28

    PI, 51/2-3

    PII, 13

    CIHL, 1

protection against effects of hostilities (See also Precautions against the effets of attacks)

    HR, 26-27

    GCIV, 28

    PI, 48, 51, 54, 56, 57, 59, 60, 61-67

    PII, 15, 18/2

    CIHL, 22, 23, 24

loss of protection if DPH (See also Direct participation in hostilities)

    PI, 51/3

    PII, 13/3

    CIHL, 6

presence of a combatant or a military objective among the civilian population

    PI, 50/3


    GC Common 3 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    PII, 13-1

prohibition of reprisals (See also Reprisals)

    GCIV, 33

    PI, 20, 51/6

    CIHL, 146

prohibition of starvation as a method of war (See also Starvation)

    PI, 54/1

    PII, 14

    CIHL, 53

prohibition of human shields (See also Human shields)

    PI, 51/7

    CIHL, 97

in hospital & safety zones, neutralized zones, demilitarized zones (See also Hospital and safey zones and localities)

    GCI, Annex I 1-4

    GCIV, 14 and Annex I 1-4

    PI, 60  




Suggested reading:

DINSTEIN Yoram, “Distinction and Loss of Civilian Protection in International Armed Conflicts”, IYHR, Vol. 38, 2008, pp. 1-16   DOSWALD-BECK Louise, “The Value of the 1977 Protocols for the Protection of Civilians”, in MEYER Michael A. (ed.), Armed Conflict and the New Law: Aspects of the 1977 GenevaProtocols and the 1981 Weapons Convention, London, British Institute of International and Comparative Law, 1989, pp. 137-172   DOWNES Alexander B., Targeting Civilians in War, Ithaca, London, Cornell University Press, 2008, 315 pp.   GEHRING Robert W., “Loss of Civilian Protections under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Protocol I”, in RDMDG, Vol. 19, 1980, pp. 9-48.   GUILLORY Michael E., “Civilianizing the Force: Is the United States Crossing the Rubicon?”, in Air Force Law Review, Vol. 51, 2001, pp. 111 ff.   GOODMAN Ryan, “The Detention of Civilians in Armed Conflicts”, in AJIL, Vol. 103, No. 1, January 2009, pp. 48-74   GROSS Michael L., “Asymmetric War, Symmetrical Intentions: Killing Civilians in Modern Armed Conflict”, in Global Crime, Vol. 10, No. 4, November 2009, pp. 320-336   OBRADOVIC Konstantin, “La protection de la population civile dans les conflits armés internationaux”, in  CASSESE Antonio (ed.), The New Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict, Naples, Editoriale Scientifica, Vol. I, 1979, pp. 128-160.   PRIMORATZ Igor, Civilian Immunity in War, Oxford, OUP, 2007, 263 pp.   ROSEN Richard D., “Targeting Enemy Forces in the War on Terror: Preserving Civilian Immunity”, in Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 42, No. 3, May 2009, pp. 683-777.   SOLF Waldemar A., “Protection of Civilians Against the Effects of Hostilities under Customary International Law and under Protocol I”, in American University Journal of International Law and Policy, Vol. 1, 1986, pp. 107-135   TIGROUDJA Hélène, “La Cour suprême israélienne et la protection des personnes en temps de conflit”, in RGDIP, T. 113, 2009, pp. 555-588   TURNER Lisa & NORTON Lynn G., “Civilians at the Tip of the Spear”, in Air Force Law Review, Vol. 51, 2001, pp. 21 ff.   WARD Christopher, “Distinction: the Application of the Additional Protocols in the Theatre of War”, in Asia-Pacific Yearbook of International Humanitarian Law, Vol. 2 (2006), 2007, pp. 36-45   WATKIN Kenneth, “The Notion of Combatant, Armed Group, Civilians and Civilian Population in International Armed Conflicts”, in BERUTO Gian Luca (ed.), The Conduct of Hostilities: Revisiting the Law of Armed Conflict: 100 Years After the 1907 Hague Conventions and 30 Years After the 1977 Additional Protocols: Current Problems of International Humanitarian Law, Sanremo, 6-8 September 2007: Proceedings, Milano, Nagard, 2008, pp. 59-69   WENGER Andreas & MASON Simon J. A., “The Civilianization of Armed Conflict: Trends and Implications”, in IRRC, Vol. 90, No. 872, December 2008, pp. 835-852