Protocol I (sometimes referred to as Additional Protocol I or AP 1) is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international conflicts, extending to "armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes" are to be considered international conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern international warfare that have taken place since the Second World War.
As of February 2020, it had been ratified by 174 states, with the United States, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, and Turkey being notable exceptions. However, the United States, Iran, and Pakistan signed it on 12 December 1977, which signifies an intention to work towards ratifying it. The Iranian Revolution has occurred in the interim.
On 16 October 2019, President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order and submitted a State Duma bill to revoke the statement accompanying Russia's ratification of the Protocol I, accepting the competence of the Article 90 International Fact-Finding Commission. The bill was supplied with the following warning:
Exceptional circumstances affect the interests of the Russian Federation and require urgent action. ... In the current international environment, the risks of abuse of the commission's powers for political purposes by unscrupulous states who act in bad faith have increased significantly.
Protocol I is an extensive document, containing 102 articles. The following is a basic overview of the protocol. For a comprehensive listing of all provisions, consult the text and the commentary.
In general, the protocol reaffirms the provisions of the original four Geneva Conventions. However, the following additional protections are added.
Article I states that the convention applies in "armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination and alien occupation and against racist régimes in the exercise of their right of self-determination", which has been interpreted as favoring terrorism, and denying protections to Israel, since United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379 ("Zionism is racism") was in effect at that time.
Article 37 prohibits perfidy. It identifies four types of perfidy and differentiates ruses of war from perfidy.
Article 40 prohibits no quarter, including that there are no survivors, to threaten an adversary as such, or to conduct hostilities on that basis.
Article 42 outlaws attacks on pilots and aircrews who are parachuting from an aircraft in distress. Once they landed in territory controlled by an adverse party, they must be given an opportunity to surrender before being attacked unless it is apparent that they are engaging in a hostile act or attempting to escape. Airborne troops, or agents who are parachuting from an aircraft, whether in distress or not, are not given the protection afforded by this Article and, therefore, may be attacked during their descent.
Article 43 deals with the identification of Armed Forces that are Party to a conflict, and states that combatants "shall be subject to an internal disciplinary system which, inter alia, shall enforce compliance with the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict."
Articles 51 and 54 outlaw indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations, and destruction of food, water, and other materials needed for survival. Indiscriminate attacks include directly attacking civilian (non-military) targets, but also using technology such as biological weapons, nuclear weapons, and land mines, whose scope of destruction cannot be limited. A total war that does not distinguish between civilian and military targets is considered a war crime.
Articles 56 and 53 outlaw attacks on dams, dikes, nuclear electrical-generating stations, and places of worship. The first three are "works and installations containing dangerous forces" and may be attacked only in ways that do not threaten to release the dangerous forces (i.e., it is permissible to capture them but not to destroy them).
Articles 76 and 77, 15 and 79 provide special protections for women, children, and civilian medical personnel, and provide measures of protection for journalists.
Articles 43 and 44 clarify the military status of members of guerrilla forces. Combatant and prisoner of war status are granted to members of dissident forces when under the command of a central authority. Such combatants cannot conceal their allegiance; they must be recognizable as combatants while preparing for or during an attack.
Article 90 states that "The High Contracting Parties may at the time of signing, ratifying or acceding to the Protocol, or at any other subsequent time, declare that they recognize ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to any other High Contracting Party accepting the same obligation, the competence of the [International Fact-Finding] Commission to enquire into allegations by such other Party, as authorized by this Article." 74 states have made such a declaration.
^According to "Exceptional Engagement: Protocol I and a World United Against Terrorism" by Michael A. Newton (2009), Texas International Law Journal vol. 45, p 323: "The United States chose not to adopt the Protocol in the face of intensive international criticism because of its policy conclusions that the text contained overly expansive provisions resulting from politicized pressure to accord protection to terrorists who elected to conduct hostile military operations outside the established legal framework."
^According to "Protocol I: Moving Humanitarian Law Backwards" by Douglas J. Feith (1986), Akron Law Review vol. 19, issue 4, article 3, pg. 534: "In my view, the upshot of the Diplomatic Conference was a pro-terrorist treaty that calls itself humanitarian law. It is a vindication of the rhetoric, the aims, and the practices of terrorist organizations."
^According to "A Response to Douglas J. Feith's Law in the Service of Terror -- The Strange Case of the Additional Protocol" by Waldemar A. Solf (1986), Akron Law Review vol. 20, issue 2, p. 285: "In view of the foregoing, it follows that the self determination provision in Art. 1(4) is largely symbolic and is not at all likely to present any practical problems in operations except that it automatically precludes Israel and South Africa from being parties to the Protocol, an unfortunate consequence in view of the military capability of both states in relation to their neighbors."
"New rules for victims of armed conflicts, Commentary on the two 1977 Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949", by M. Bothe, K.J.Partsch, W.A. Solf, Pub: Martinus Nijhoff The Hague/Boston/London, 1982, ISBN90-247-2537-2