Disciplinary sanctions are applied as a matter of punishment by a superior for breaching an internal or general rule in groups with a certain hierarchical structure.

Under international humanitarian law of international armed conflicts, having a disciplinary system capable of enforcing compliance with the law is one of the requirements that organized armed groups must fulfill in order for their members to be entitled to prisoner of war status (GC III, Art. 4; P I, Art. 43). On the part of the armed forces of the State, such disciplinary systems are presumed to exist.

One of the conditions for the existence of a non-international armed conflict is the degree of organization on the part of the non-state armed group, according to which the group has to be capable of enforcing the rules of IHL through, inter alia, disciplinary sanctions.

In the context of the detention or internment of civilians or prisoners of war, disciplinary sanctions may be applied in order to repress breaches of law or of internal regulations. Disciplinary sanctions are to be applied, as far as possible, instead of penal sanctions, where appropriate.

See SanctionsCivilian internees; Prisoners of War; Breaches





    GCIII, 89-98

    GCIV, 119

    CIHL, 100-102


    GCIII, 90

    GCIV, 119

execution of punishment      

    GCIII, 97-98

    GCIV, 124-125


    GCIII, 26/6

    GCIII, 71/1

    GCIII, 82

    GCIII, 86-88

    GCIII, 89/2-3

    GCIV, 107/1

    GCIV, 117/2-3

    GCIV, 118

    GCIV, 119/2-3

    GCIV, 123

procedure and records      

    GCIII, 96

    GCIV, 132

types of punishment  

    GCIII, 89

    GCIV, 119


RENAUT Céline, “The Impact of Military Disciplinary Sanctions on Compliance with International Humanitarian Law”, in IRRC, Vol. 90, No. 870, June 2008, pp. 319-326.   VERHAEGEN Jacques, “Le refus d’obéissance aux ordres manifestement criminels”, in IRRC, No. 845, March 2002, pp. 35-50.