Being that we have three active armed conflicts occurring at the moment (Israel v Gaza, Ukraine v Russia, and finally ISIS v anyone it can find ).
I would seem pertinent to point out multilateral treaties on conduct during war specifically pertaining to treatment of wounded individuals and non combatants, known as the Geneva conventions.
Without being too cynical in the fact that civilian deaths over the last century have proportionally increased relative to military personnel deaths, a set of agreed minimum standards of conduct were accepted in geopolitical struggles.
In a nut shell:
Much of the convention covers who is a soldier or can be treated as such, and given certain protections (such as a right to medical treatment if captured), and obligations (such as to state name rank and serial number) and what weapons and tactics can be employed.
Curiously despite certain weapon being banned, (chemical, biological, nuclear, fuel air bombs) many signatory states keep such weapons in vast quantities and occasionally deploy them.
Importantly mercenaries, snipers and spies have no protections.
Soldiers must have standardized equipment, wear uniforms and have identification and be a citizen of the state they are fighting for.
Civilians must not fight and cannot be killed or mistreated when captured.
Certain locations such as schools, hospitals and places of worship cannot be attacked.
So while it is a diplomatic agreement, breaches regularly occur, with some states being notorious for breaches of the convention.
Some excerpts from the convention relating specifically to treatment of civilians and prisoners.
The third Geneva Convention (“Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War”) covers members of the armed forces who fall into enemy hands. They are in the power of the enemy State, not of the individuals or troops who have captured them
Prisoners of war MUST be:
– Treated humanely with respect for their persons and their honour.
– Enabled to inform their next of kin and the Central Prisoners of War Agency (ICRC, the International Red Cross) of their capture.
– Allowed to correspond regularly with relatives and to receive relief parcels.
– Allowed to keep their clothes, feeding utensils and personal effects.
– Supplied with adequate food and clothing.
– Provided with quarters not inferior to those of their captor’s troops.
– Given the medical care their state of health demands.
– Paid for any work they do.
– Repatriated if certified seriously ill or wounded, (but they must not resume active military duties afterwards) .
– Quickly released and repatriated when hostilities cease.
Prisoners of war must NOT be:
-Compelled to give any information other than their name, age, rank and service number.
– Deprived of money or valuables without a receipt (and these must be returned at the time of release).
– Given individual privileges other than for reasons of health, sex, age, military rank or professional qualifications.
– Held in close confinement except for breaches of the law, although their liberty can be restricted for security reasons.
– Compelled to do military work, nor work which is dangerous, unhealthy or degrading.
The fourth Geneva Convention (“Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War”) covers all individuals “who do not belong to the armed forces, take no part in the hostilities and find themselves in the hands of the Enemy or an Occupying Power”.
Protected civilians MUST be:
– Treated humanely at all times and protected against acts or threats of violence, insults and public curiosity.
– Entitled to respect for their honour, family rights, religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.
– Specially protected, for example in safety zones, if wounded, sick, old, children under 15, expectant mothers or mothers of children under 7.
– Enabled to exchange family news of a personal kind. – Helped to secure news of family members dispersed by the conflict
– Allowed to practise their religion with ministers of their own faith. Civilians who are interned have the same rights as prisoners of war. They may also ask to have their children interned with them, and wherever possible families should be housed together and provided with the facilities to continue normal family life. Wounded or sick civilians, civilian hospitals and staff, and hospital transport by land, sea or air must be specially respected and may be placed under protection of the red cross/crescent emblem.
Protected civilians must NOT be:
– Discriminated against because of race, religion or political opinion. – Forced to give information.
– Used to shield military operations or make an area immune from military operations.
– Punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. – Women must not be indecently assaulted, raped, or forced into prostitution.
More info at: http://www.ifrc.org/
What would be the point of wining a war, if your society lost its humanity in doing so?