you're a captain on a ship that's taken heavy damage, so you decided to devise a plan, you order your crew off the ship, you surrender your damaged ship and her crew (which consists of just you) to the enemy admiral. For whatever reason the enemy admiral didn't accept surrender, and that's what you were counting on in your plan, you then crash the ship into the enemy vessel. Are you guilty of false surrender?


1 Answer 1


Surrender may not be refused

Surrender is the unconditional cession of hostilities accompanied by a clear intention to become a prisoner of war. It immediately renders the person and people under their command hors de combat. The former enemy must immediately cease hostilities and render whatever assistance is required and appropriate in the circumstances. If they are still engaged in combat with other units, they may not be able to make provisions for the prisoners immediately, but even if not taken into custody, they are still non-combatants.

However, non combatants are still entitled to exercise self-defence. If you have clearly communicated your surrender and the former enemy keeps shooting at you a) they’re committing a war crime and b) you’re entitled to make them stop by use of reasonable force.

You are also entitled to protect your life and the life of your companions by, for example, evacuating a sinking ship.

A surrender is different from a capitulation. The terms of a capitulation must be agreed and become binding on the parties only once they are agreed and often the terms will include a time when they come into effect.

Similarly, a surrender is different from a cease fire, which are also subject to negotiated terms and, usually, those terms involve an undertaking that neither side will use the cease fire as an opportunity to seek future military advantage.

Feigning surrender is a war crime. But since a surrender can’t legally be refused, your hypothetical admiral’s plan is stillborn. If he surrenders, then it’s over, if he isn’t actually surrendering then he’s a war criminal.

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    operative point here is clearly communicated - if the surrender is not clear, you stay a combatant and don't become hors de combat.
    – Trish
    Commented Jan 27 at 2:14

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