Rule 113. Treatment of the Dead
Rule 113. Each party to the conflict must take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled. Mutilation of dead bodies is prohibited.
Summary
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 obligation to take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled (or pillaged) was first codified in the 1907 Hague Convention (X).[1]  It is now also codified in the Geneva Conventions.[2]  It is also contained in Additional Protocol I,[3]  albeit in more general terms of “respecting” the dead, which includes the notion of preventing the remains from being despoiled.[4] 
The obligation to take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled or the prohibition of the despoliation of the dead is set forth in numerous military manuals.[5]  The despoliation of dead bodies is an offence under the legislation of many States.[6]  In the Pohl case in 1947, the US Military Tribunal at Nuremberg stated that robbing the dead “is and always has been a crime”.[7]  In addition, the prohibition of despoliation of dead bodies is an application of the general prohibition of pillage (see Rule 52).
The prohibition of mutilating dead bodies in international armed conflicts is covered by the war crime of “committing outrages upon personal dignity” under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which according to the Elements of Crimes also applies to dead persons (see commentary to Rule 90).[8] 
Many military manuals prohibit the mutilation or other maltreatment of the dead.[9]  Mutilation of the dead is an offence under the legislation of many States.[10]  In several trials after the Second World War, the accused were convicted on charges of mutilation of dead bodies and cannibalism.[11]  The prohibition on mutilating the dead is further supported by official statements and other practice.[12] 
Non-international armed conflicts
The obligation to take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled in non-international armed conflicts is set forth in Additional Protocol II.[13]  In addition, this obligation is contained in other instruments pertaining also to non-international armed conflicts.[14] 
The obligation to take all possible measures to prevent the dead from being despoiled or the prohibition of the despoliation of the dead is set forth in a number of military manuals which are applicable in or have been applied in non-international armed conflicts.[15]  It is also an offence under the legislation of many States.[16]  In addition, the prohibition of despoliation of dead bodies is an application of the general prohibition of pillage (see Rule 52).
It has been argued by the Prosecutor before Colombia’s Council of State that the obligation to respect the dead is inherent in common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions.[17]  The prohibition of mutilation is set forth in Additional Protocol II.[18]  The prohibition of mutilating dead bodies in non-international armed conflicts is covered by the war crime of “committing outrages upon personal dignity” under the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which according to the Elements of Crimes also applies to dead persons (see commentary to Rule 90).[19]  This prohibition is set forth in other instruments pertaining also to non-international armed conflicts.[20] 
Many military manuals which are applicable in or have been applied in non-international armed conflicts prohibit the mutilation or other maltreatment of the dead.[21]  Under the legislation of many States, it is an offence to mutilate or otherwise maltreat dead bodies.[22] 
No official contrary practice was found with respect to either international or non-international armed conflicts.

[1] Hague Convention (X), Article 16 (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 35, § 125).
[2] First Geneva Convention, Article 15, first paragraph (ibid., § 126); Second Geneva Convention, Article 18, first paragraph (ibid., § 127); Fourth Geneva Convention, Article 16, second paragraph (ibid., § 128).
[3] Additional Protocol I, Article 34(1) (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 59).
[4] Yves Sandoz, Christophe Swinarski, Bruno Zimmermann (eds.), Commentary on the Additional Protocols, ICRC, Geneva, 1987, § 446.
[5] See, e.g., the military manuals of Argentina (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 35, § 134), Australia (ibid., § 135), Belgium (ibid., § 136), Benin (ibid., § 137), Burkina Faso (ibid., § 138), Cameroon (ibid., § 139), Canada (ibid., §§ 140–141), Congo (ibid., § 142), France (ibid., § 143), Germany (ibid., § 144), Kenya (ibid., § 145), Lebanon (ibid., § 146), Madagascar (ibid., § 147), Mali (ibid., § 148), Morocco (ibid., § 149), Netherlands (ibid., § 150), New Zealand (ibid., § 151), Nigeria (ibid., § 152), Romania (ibid., § 153), Senegal (ibid., § 154), Spain (ibid., § 155), Switzerland (ibid., § 156), Togo (ibid., § 157), United Kingdom (ibid., §§ 158–159) and United States (ibid., §§ 160–164).
[6] See, e.g., the legislation (ibid., §§ 165–234).
[7] United States, Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, Pohl case (ibid., § 235).
[8] Elements of Crimes for the ICC, Definition of committing outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime (ICC Statute, Footnote 49 relating to Article 8(2)(b)(xxi)).
[9] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., § 67), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ibid., § 68), Canada (ibid., §§ 69–70), Ecuador (ibid., § 71), Israel (ibid., § 72), Republic of Korea (ibid., §§ 73–74), Netherlands (ibid., §§ 75–76), New Zealand (ibid., § 77), Nigeria (ibid., § 78), Philippines (ibid., § 79), South Africa (ibid., § 80), Spain (ibid., § 81), Switzerland (ibid., § 82), United Kingdom (ibid., §§ 83–84) and United States (ibid., §§ 85–87).
[10] See, e.g., the legislation of Australia (ibid., §§ 88–89), Bangladesh (ibid., § 90), Canada (ibid., § 91), Congo (ibid., § 92), Ethiopia (ibid., § 93), Ireland (ibid., § 94), Italy (ibid., §§ 95–96), Lithuania (ibid., § 97), Netherlands (ibid., § 98), New Zealand (ibid., § 99), Norway (ibid., § 100), Spain (ibid., § 101), Switzerland (ibid., § 102), United Kingdom (ibid., § 104) and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (ibid., § 105); see also the draft legislation of Trinidad and Tobago (ibid., § 103).
[11] Australia, Military Court at Wewak, Takehiko case (ibid., § 106); Australia, Military Court at Rabaul, Tisato case (ibid., § 107); United States, Military Commission at Yokohama, Kikuchi and Mahuchi case (ibid., § 109); United States, Military Commission at the Mariana Islands, Yochio and Others case (ibid., § 110); United States, General Military Court at Dachau, Schmid case (ibid., § 111).
[12] See, e.g., the statement of the United States (ibid., § 115) and the practice of Azerbaijan (ibid., § 112).
[13] Additional Protocol II, Article 8 (adopted by consensus) (ibid., § 130).
[14] See, e.g., Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Philippines, Part IV, Article 4(9) (ibid., § 133).
[15] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., § 135), Benin (ibid., § 137), Canada (ibid., §§ 140–141), Germany (ibid., § 144), Kenya (ibid., § 145), Lebanon (ibid., § 146), Madagascar (ibid., § 147), Spain (ibid., § 155) and Togo (ibid., § 157).
[16] See, e.g., the legislation of Armenia (ibid., § 168), Azerbaijan (ibid., § 170), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ibid., § 172), Canada (ibid., § 176), Colombia (ibid., § 179), Croatia (ibid., § 181), Ethiopia (ibid., § 188), Gambia (ibid., § 190), Georgia (ibid., § 191), Ghana (ibid., § 192), Guinea (ibid., § 193), Ireland (ibid., § 197), Kazakhstan (ibid., § 199), Kenya (ibid., § 200), Latvia (ibid., § 202), Republic of Moldova (ibid., § 207), New Zealand (ibid., § 209), Nicaragua (ibid., § 211), Nigeria (ibid., § 212), Norway (ibid., § 213), Singapore (ibid., § 215), Slovenia (ibid., § 217), Spain (ibid., §§ 218–219), Switzerland (ibid., § 220), Tajikistan (ibid., § 221), Trinidad and Tobago (ibid., § 223), Uganda (ibid., § 224), Ukraine (ibid., § 225), Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (ibid., § 229), Yemen (ibid., § 231), Yugoslavia (ibid., § 232), Zambia (ibid., § 233) and Zimbabwe (ibid., § 234); see also the legislation of Bulgaria (ibid., § 174), Burkina Faso (ibid., § 175), Czech Republic (ibid., § 183), Hungary (ibid., § 194), Italy (ibid., § 198), Republic of Korea (ibid., § 201), Nicaragua (ibid., § 210), Romania (ibid., § 214), Slovakia (ibid., § 216), Togo (ibid., § 222) and Uruguay (ibid., § 228), the application of which is not excluded in time of non-international armed conflict, and the draft legislation of Argentina (ibid., § 167).
[17] Colombia, Council of State, Case No. 9276, Statement of the Prosecutor (ibid., § 113).
[18] Additional Protocol II, Article 4(2)(a) (adopted by consensus) (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 32, § 1420).
[19] Elements of Crimes for the ICC, Definition of committing outrages upon personal dignity as a war crime (ICC Statute, Footnote 57 relating to Article 8(2)(c)(ii)) (cited in Vol. II, Ch. 35, § 65).
[20] Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam, Article 3(a) (ibid., § 63); Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law in the Philippines, Part IV, Article 3(4) (ibid., § 64); UNTAET Regulation 2000/15, Section 6(1)(c)(ii) (ibid., § 66).
[21] See, e.g., the military manuals of Australia (ibid., § 67), Bosnia and Herzegovina (ibid., § 68), Canada (ibid., § 70), Ecuador (ibid., § 71), Republic of Korea (ibid., § 73), New Zealand (ibid., § 77), Philippines (ibid., § 79), South Africa (ibid., § 80) and Spain (ibid., § 81).
[22] See, e.g., the legislation of Australia (ibid., § 89), Canada (ibid., § 91), Congo (ibid., § 92), Ethiopia (ibid., § 93), Ireland (ibid., § 94), New Zealand (ibid., § 99), Norway (ibid., § 100), Switzerland (ibid., § 102), United Kingdom (ibid., § 104) and Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (ibid., § 105); see also the legislation of Italy (ibid., §§ 95–96), the application of which is not excluded in time of non-international armed conflict, and the draft legislation of Trinidad and Tobago (ibid., § 103).