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  • Print publication year: 2005
  • Online publication date: June 2012

Chapter 34 - The Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked (Rules 109–111)


Rule 109. Whenever circumstances permit, and particularly after an engagement, each party to the conflict must, without delay, take all possible measures to search for, collect and evacuate the wounded, sick and shipwrecked without adverse distinction.


Volume II, Chapter 34, Section A.


State practice establishes this rule as a norm of customary international law applicable in both international and non-international armed conflicts.

International armed conflicts

The duty to collect wounded and sick combatants without distinction in international armed conflicts was first codified in the 1864 Geneva Convention. This subject is dealt with in more detail in the 1949 Geneva Conventions. This duty is now codified in Article 10 of Additional Protocol I, albeit in more general terms of “protecting” the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, which means “coming to their defence, lending help and support”.

The numerous military manuals which contain this rule are phrased in general terms covering all wounded, sick and shipwrecked, whether military or civilian. Sweden's IHL Manual, in particular, identifies Article 10 of Additional Protocol I as a codification of customary international law. The legislation of many States provides for the punishment of persons who abandon the wounded, sick and shipwrecked.

Non-international armed conflicts

In the context of non-international armed conflicts, this rule is based on common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which provides that “the wounded and sick shall be collected”.