USMC MILITARY CODE OF CONDUCT
The Code of the U.S. Fighting Force is a code of conduct that is an "ethical guide" and a United States Department of Defense directive consisting of six articles to members of the United States Armed Forces, addressing how American military personnel in combat should act when they must "evade capture, resist while a prisoner or escape from the enemy." It is considered an important part of U.S. military doctrine but is not formal military law in the manner of the Uniform Code of Military Justice and public international law (such as the Geneva Conventions).
Colonel Franklin Brooke Nihart, USMC, worked at Marine Corps headquarters throughout the summer of 1955, outlined his ideas in longhand and the Code of Conduct was established with the issuance of Executive Order 10631 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on 17 August 1955, after the Korean War. It has been modified twice—once in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter in Executive Order 12017, and most recently in President Ronald Reagan's Executive Order 12633 of March 1988, which amended the code to make it gender-neutral.
Notably, the code prohibits surrender except when "all reasonable means of resistance [are] exhausted and...certain death the only alternative," enjoins captured Americans to "resist by all means available" and "make every effort to escape and aid others," and bars the acceptance of parole or special favors from enemies. The code also outlines proper conduct for American prisoners of war, reaffirms that under the Geneva Conventions prisoners of war should give "name, rank, service number, and date of birth" and requires that under interrogation captured military personnel should "evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability."
The Geneva Conventions today
Although warfare has changed dramatically since the Geneva Conventions of 1949, they are still considered the cornerstone of contemporary International Humanitarian Law. They protect combatants who find themselves hors de combat, and they protect civilians caught up in the zone of war. These treaties came into play for all recent international armed conflicts, including the War in Afghanistan (2001–present), the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the invasion of Chechnya (1994–present),and the 2008 War in Georgia. The Geneva Conventions also protect those affected by non-international armed conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War.
Modern warfare continues to evolve, and the lines between combatants and civilians have blurred (e.g. the Sri Lankan Civil War, the Sudanese Civil War, and the Colombian Armed Conflict). Common Article 3 deals with these situations, supplemented by Protocol II (1977). These set out minimum legal standards that must be followed for internal conflicts. International tribunals, particularly the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, have helped to clarify international law in this area. In the 1999 Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic judgement, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ruled that grave breaches apply not only to international conflicts, but also to internal armed conflict.[dubious – discuss] Further, those provisions are considered customary international law, allowing war crimes prosecution by the United Nations and its International Court of Justice over groups that have signed and have not signed the Geneva Conventions.