Civilians
in The contemporary law of armed conflict
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One of the oldest rules of the law of war provides for the protection of the civilian noncombatant population and forbids making civilians the direct object of attack. The Geneva Convention IV applies only to civilians in the hands of or under the physical control of an adverse party or an Occupying Power. Those in their own territory are protected only by the general rules limiting warlike acts and methods of combat. As with other protected persons, civilians in enemy hands, whether in national or occupied territory, are entitled to respect for their persons, honour, family rights, religious convictions and practices, manners and customs. When imposing punishment it must be remembered that non-national civilians owe no allegiance to the Detaining Power, which nevertheless retains the right to punish offences against its security.

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