Convention (IV) respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and
its annex: Regulations concerning the Laws and Customs of War on
Land. The Hague, 18 October 1907.
(List of Contracting Parties)
Seeing that while seeking means to preserve peace and prevent armed
conflicts between nations, it is likewise necessary to bear in mind the
case where the appeal to arms has been brought about by events
which their care was unable to avert;
Animated by the desire to serve, even in this extreme case, the
interests of humanity and the ever progressive needs of civilization;
Thinking it important, with this object, to revise the general laws and
customs of war, either with a view to defining them with greater
precision or to confining them within such limits as would mitigate their
severity as far as possible;
Have deemed it necessary to complete and explain in certain
particulars the work of the First Peace Conference, which, following on
the Brussels Conference of 1874, and inspired by the ideas dictated by
a wise and generous forethought, adopted provisions intended to
define land govern the usages of war on land.
According to the views of the High Contracting Parties, these
provisions, the wording of which has been inspired by the desire to
diminish the evils of war, as far as military requirements permit, are
intended to serve as a general rule of conduct for the belligerents in
their mutual relations and in their relations with the inhabitants.
It has not, however, been found possible at present to concert
regulations covering all the circumstances which arise in practice;
On the other hand, the High Contracting Parties clearly do not intend
that unforeseen cases should, in the absence of a written undertaking,
be left to the arbitrary judgment of military commanders.
Until a more complete code of the laws of war has been issued, the
High Contracting Parties deem it expedient to declare that, in cases not
included in the Regulations adopted by them, the inhabitants and the
belligerents remain under the protection and the rule of the principles of
the law of nations, as they result from the usages established among
civilized peoples, from the laws of humanity, and the dictates of the
public conscience.
They declare that it is in this sense especially that Articles I and 2 of
the Regulations adopted must be understood.
The High Contracting Parties, wishing to conclude a fresh Convention
to this effect, have appointed the
following as their Plenipotentiaries:
(Here follow the names of Plenipotentiaries)
Who, after having deposited their full powers, found in good and due
form, have agreed upon the following:
Article 1. The Contracting Powers shall issue instructions to their
armed land forces which shall be in conformity with the Regulations
respecting the laws and customs of war on land, annexed to the
present Convention.
Art. 2. The provisions contained in the Regulations referred to in Article
1, as well as in the present Convention, do not apply except between
Contracting powers, and then only if all the belligerents are parties to
the Convention.
Art. 3. A belligerent party which violates the provisions of the said
Regulations shall, if the case demands, be liable to pay compensation.
It shall be responsible for all acts committed by persons forming part of
its armed forces.
Art. 4. The present Convention, duly ratified, shall as between the
Contracting Powers, be substituted for the Convention of 29 July 1899,
respecting the laws land customs of war on land.
The Convention of 1899 remains in force as between the Powers which
signed it, and which do not also ratify the present Convention.
Art. 5. The present Convention shall be ratified as soon as possible.
The ratifications shall be deposited at The Hague.
The first deposit of ratifications shall be recorded in a procès-verbal
signed by the Representatives of the Powers which take part therein
and by the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Affairs.
The subsequent deposits of ratifications shall be made by means of a
written notification, addressed to the Netherlands Government and
accompanied by the instrument of ratification.
A duly certified copy of the procès-verbal relative to the first deposit of
ratifications, of the notifications mentioned in the preceding paragraph,
as well as of the instruments of ratification, shall be immediately sent
by the Netherlands Government, through the diplomatic channel, to the
powers invited to the Second Peace Conference, as well as to the
other Powers which have adhered to the Convention. In the cases
contemplated in the preceding paragraph the said Government shall at
the same time inform them of the date on which it received the
Art. 6. Non-Signatory Powers may adhere to the present Convention.
The Power which desires to adhere notifies in writing its intention to the
Netherlands Government, forwarding to it the act of adhesion, which
shall be deposited in the archives of the said Government.
This Government shall at once transmit to all the other Powers a duly
certified copy of the notification as well as of the act of adhesion,
mentioning the date on which it received the notification.
Art. 7. The present Convention shall come into force, in the case of the
Powers which were a party to the first deposit of ratifications, sixty days
after the date of the procès-verbal of this deposit, and, in the case of
the Powers which ratify subsequently or which adhere, sixty days after
the notification of their ratification or of their adhesion has been
received by the Netherlands Government.
Art. 8. In the event of one of the Contracting Powers wishing to
denounce the present Convention, the denunciation shall be notified in
writing to the Netherlands Government, which shall at once
communicate a duly certified copy of the notification to all the other
Powers, informing them of the date on which it was received.
The denunciation shall only have effect in regard to the notifying
Power, land one year after the notification has reached the Netherlands
Art. 9. A register kept by the Netherlands Ministry for Foreign Affairs
shall give the date of the deposit of ratifications made in virtue of Article
5, paragraphs 3 land 4, as well as the date on which the notifications of
adhesion (Article 6, paragraph 2), or of denunciation (Article 8,
paragraph 1) were received.
Each Contracting Power is entitled to have access to this register and
to be supplied with duly certified extracts.
In faith whereof the Plenipotentiaries have appended their signatures to
the present Convention.
Done at The Hague 18 October 1907, in a single copy, which shall
remain deposited in the archives of the Netherlands Government, and
duly certified copies of which shall be sent, through the diplomatic
channel to the Powers which have been invited to the Second Peace
(Here follow signatures)
The qualifications of belligerents
Article 1. The laws, rights, and duties of war apply not only to armies,
but also to militia and volunteer
corps fulfilling the following conditions:
1. To be commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
2. To have a fixed distinctive emblem recognizable at a distance;
3. To carry arms openly; and
4. To conduct their operations in accordance with the laws and
customs of war.
In countries where militia or volunteer corps constitute the army, or
form part of it, they are included under the denomination "army."
Art. 2. The inhabitants of a territory which has not been occupied, who,
on the approach of the enemy, spontaneously take up arms to resist
the invading troops without having had time to organize themselves in
accordance with Article 1, shall be regarded as belligerents if they carry
arms openly and if they respect the laws and customs of war.
Art. 3. The armed forces of the belligerent parties may consist of
combatants and non-combatants. In the case of capture by the enemy,
both have a right to be treated as prisoners of war.
Prisoners of war
Art. 4. Prisoners of war are in the power of the hostile Government, but
not of the individuals or corps who capture them.
They must be humanely treated.
All their personal belongings, except arms, horses, and military papers,
remain their property.
Art. 5. Prisoners of war may be interned in a town, fortress, camp, or
other place, and bound not to go beyond certain fixed limits; but they
cannot be confined except as in indispensable measure of safety land
only while the circumstances which necessitate the measure continue
to exist.
Art. 6. The State may utilize the labour of prisoners of war according to
their rank and aptitude, officers excepted. The tasks shall not be
excessive and shall have no connection with the operations of the war.
Prisoners may be authorized to work for the public service, for private
persons, or on their own account.
Work done for the State is paid for at the rates in force for work of a
similar kind done by soldiers of the national army, or, if there are none
in force, at a rate according to the work executed.
When the work is for other branches of the public service or for private
persons the conditions are settled in agreement with the military
The wages of the prisoners shall go towards improving their position,
and the balance shall be paid them on their release, after deducting the
cost of their maintenance.
Art. 7. The Government into whose hands prisoners of war have fallen
is charged with their maintenance.
In the absence of a special agreement between the belligerents,
prisoners of war shall be treated as regards board, lodging, and
clothing on the same footing as the troops of the Government who
captured them.
Art. 8. Prisoners of war shall be subject to the laws, regulations, and
orders in force in the army of the State in whose power they are. Any
act of insubordination justifies the adoption towards them of such
measures of severity as may be considered necessary.
Escaped prisoners who are retaken before being able to rejoin their
own army or before leaving the territory occupied by the army which
captured them are liable to disciplinary punishment.
Prisoners who, after succeeding in escaping, are again taken
prisoners, are not liable to any punishment on account of the previous
Art. 9. Every prisoner of war is bound to give, if he is questioned on the
subject, his true name and rank, and if he infringes this rule, he is liable
to have the advantages given to prisoners of his class curtailed.
Art. 10. Prisoners of war may be set at liberty on parole if the laws of
their country allow, and, in such cases, they are bound, on their
personal honour, scrupulously to fulfil, both towards their own
Government and the Government by whom they were made prisoners,
the engagements they have contracted.
In such cases their own Government is bound neither to require of nor
accept from them any service incompatible with the parole given.
Art. 11. A prisoner of war cannot be compelled to accept his liberty on
parole; similarly the hostile Government is not obliged to accede to the
request of the prisoner to be set at liberty on parole.
Art. 12. Prisoners of war liberated on parole and recaptured bearing
arms against the Government to whom they had pledged their honour,
or against the allies of that Government, forfeit their right to be treated
as prisoners of war, and can be brought before the courts.
Art. 13. Individuals who follow an army without directly belonging to it,
such as newspaper correspondents and reporters, sutlers and
contractors, who fall into the enemy's hands and whom the latter thinks
expedient to detain, are entitled to be treated as prisoners of war,
provided they are in possession of a certificate from the military
authorities of the army which they were accompanying.
Art. 14. An inquiry office for prisoners of war is instituted on the
commencement of hostilities in each of the belligerent States, and,
when necessary, in neutral countries which have received belligerents
in their territory. It is the function of this office to reply to all inquiries
about the prisoners. It receives from the various services concerned full
information respecting internments arid transfers. releases on parole,
exchanges, escapes, admissions into hospital, deaths, as well as other
information necessary to enable it to make out land keep up to date an
individual return for each prisoner of war. The office must state in this
return the regimental number, name and surname, age, place of origin,
rank, unit, wounds, date and place of capture, internment, wounding,
and death, as well as any observations of a special character. The
individual return shall be sent to the Government of the other
belligerent after the conclusion of peace.
It is likewise the function of the inquiry office to receive and collect all
objects of personal use, valuables, letters, etc., found on the field of
battle or left by prisoners who have been released on parole, or
exchanged, or who have escaped, or died in hospitals or ambulances,
and to forward them to those concerned.
Art. 15. Relief societies for prisoners of war, which are properly
constituted in accordance with the laws of their country and with the
object of serving as the channel for charitable effort shall receive from
the belligerents, for themselves and their duly accredited agents every
facility for the efficient performance of their humane task within the
bounds imposed by military necessities and administrative regulations.
Agents of these societies may be admitted to the places of internment
for the purpose of distributing relief, as also to the halting places of
repatriated prisoners, if furnished with a personal permit by the military
authorities, and on giving an undertaking in writing to comply with all
measures of order and police which the latter may issue.
Art. 16. Inquiry offices enjoy the privilege of free postage. Letters,
money orders, and valuables, as well as parcels by post, intended for
prisoners of war, or dispatched by them, shall be exempt from all postal
duties in the countries of origin and destination, as well as in the
countries they pass through.
Presents and relief in kind for prisoners of war shall be admitted free of
all import or other duties, as well as of payments for carriage by the
State railways.
Art. 17. Officers taken prisoners shall receive the same rate of pay as
officers of corresponding rank in the country where they are detained,
the amount to be ultimately refunded by their own Government.
Art. 18. Prisoners of war shall enjoy complete liberty in the exercise of
their religion, including attendance at the services of whatever church
they may belong to, on the sole condition that they comply with the
measures of order and police issued by the military authorities.
Art. 19. The wills of prisoners of war are received or drawn up in the
same way as for soldiers of the national army.
The same rules shall be observed regarding death certificates as well
as for the burial of prisoners of war, due regard being paid to their
grade and rank.
Art. 20. After the conclusion of peace, the repatriation of prisoners of
war shall be carried out as quickly as possible.
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 not unlimited.
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
unnecessary suffering;
(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
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
enemy beforehand.
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 flagbearer
and interpreter who may accompany him.
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
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.
Art. 35. Capitulations agreed upon between the Contracting Parties
must take into account the rules of military honour.
Once settled, they must be scrupulously observed by both parties.
Art. 36. An armistice suspends military operations by mutual
agreement between the belligerent parties. If its duration is not defined,
the belligerent parties may resume operations at any time, provided
always that the enemy is warned within the time agreed upon, in
accordance with the terms of the armistice.
Art. 37. An armistice may be general or local. The first suspends the
military operations of the belligerent States everywhere; the second
only between certain fractions of the belligerent armies and within a
fixed radius.
Art. 38. An armistice must be notified officially and in good time to the
competent authorities and to the troops. Hostilities are suspended
immediately after the notification, or on the date fixed.
Art. 39. It rests with the Contracting Parties to settle, in the terms of the
armistice, what communications may be held in the theatre of war with
the inhabitants and between the inhabitants of one belligerent State
and those of the other.
Art. 40. Any serious violation of the armistice by one of the parties
gives the other party the right of denouncing it, and even, in cases of
urgency, of recommencing hostilities immediately.
Art. 41. A violation of the terms of the armistice by private persons
acting on their own initiative only entitles the injured party to demand
the punishment of the offenders or, if necessary, compensation for the
losses sustained.
Art. 42. Territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed
under the authority of the hostile army.
The occupation extends only to the territory where such authority has
been established and can be exercised.
Art. 43. The authority of the legitimate power having in fact passed into
the hands of the occupant, the latter shall take all the measures in his
power to restore, and ensure, as far as possible, public order and
safety, while respecting, unless absolutely prevented, the laws in force
in the country.
Art. 44. A belligerent is forbidden to force the inhabitants of territory
occupied by it to furnish information about the army of the other
belligerent, or about its means of defense.
Art. 45. It is forbidden to compel the inhabitants of occupied territory to
swear allegiance to the hostile Power.
Art. 46. Family honour and rights, the lives of persons, and private
property, as well as religious convictions and practice, must be
Private property cannot be confiscated.
Art. 47. Pillage is formally forbidden.
Art. 48. If, in the territory occupied, the occupant collects the taxes,
dues, and tolls imposed for the benefit of the State, he shall do so, as
far as is possible, in accordance with the rules of assessment and
incidence in force, and shall in consequence be bound to defray the
expenses of the administration of the occupied territory to the same
extent as the legitimate Government was so bound.
Art. 49. If, in addition to the taxes mentioned in the above article, the
occupant levies other money contributions in the occupied territory, this
shall only be for the needs of the army or of the administration of the
territory in question.
Art. 50. No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted
upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they
cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.
Art. 51. No contribution shall be collected except under a written order,
and on the responsibility of a commander-in-chief.
The collection of the said contribution shall only be effected as far as
possible in accordance with the rules of assessment and incidence of
the taxes in force.
For every contribution a receipt shall be given to the contributors.
Art. 52. Requisitions in kind and services shall not be demanded from
municipalities or inhabitants except for the needs of the army of
occupation. They shall be in proportion to the resources of the country,
and of such a nature as not to involve the inhabitants in the obligation
of taking part in military operations against their own country.
Such requisitions and services shall only be demanded on the authority
of the commander in the locality occupied.
Contributions in kind shall as far is possible be paid for in cash; if not, a
receipt shall be given land the payment of the amount due shall be
made as soon as possible.
Art. 53. An army of occupation can only take possession of cash,
funds, and realizable securities which are strictly the property of the
State, depots of arms, means of transport, stores and supplies, and,
generally, all movable property belonging to the State which may be
used for military operations.
All appliances, whether on land, at sea, or in the air, adapted for the
transmission of news, or for the transport of persons or things,
exclusive of cases governed by naval law, depots of arms, and,
generally, all kinds of munitions of war, may be seized, even if they
belong to private individuals, but must be restored and compensation
fixed when peace is made.
Art. 54. Submarine cables connecting an occupied territory with a
neutral territory shall not be seized or destroyed except in the case of
absolute necessity. They must likewise be restored and compensation
fixed when peace is made.
Art. 55. The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator
and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and
agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the
occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and
administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct.
Art. 56. The property of municipalities, that of institutions dedicated to
religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences, even when State
property, shall be treated as private property.
All seizure of, destruction or wilful damage done to institutions of this
character, historic monuments, works of art and science, is forbidden,
and should be made the subject of legal proceedings.