Clothing, usually of a specific colour/design, and insignia, worn by members of the same military unit. In international armed conflicts, combatants have an obligation to distinguish themselves from the civilian population and this can be achieved by wearing a uniform. Therefore, members of the armed forces engaged in or preparing an attack without wearing a uniform and/or  failing to carry their arms openly are not entitled to the status of prisoner of war. The feigning of protected status by wearing the uniforms of the United Nations or of a neutral or other non-belligerent State is prohibited by IHL.  A combatant attempting to gather information on the territory of the adverse party while in uniform shall not be considered a spy (and will therefore benefit from prisoner of war status if captured).

See CombatantsAttackPrisoners of warSpiesStatusUnited NationsNeutral State; Perfidy;



HR, 23(f)

PI, 39/2

CIHL, 62

Obligation for combatants to distinguish themselves


GC III, 4(A)

P I, 44(3)

CIHL, 106



 JOBST Valentine, “Is the Wearing of the Enemy’s Uniform a Violation of the Laws of War?”, in AJIL, Vol. 35/3, 1941, pp. 435-442   PFANNER Toni, “Military Uniforms and the Law of War”, in IRRC, No. 853, March 2004, pp. 93-130

 Wearing of uniforms of UN, neutral or other States not party to the conflict



 Necessity (or other distinction) for combatant or belligerent status