Hors de combat, literally meaning “outside the fight,” is a French term used in diplomacy and international law to refer to soldiers who are incapable of performing their military function. Examples include a downed fighter pilot, as well as the sick, wounded, detained, or otherwise disabled. Soldiers hors de combat are normally granted special protections according to the laws of war, sometimes including prisoner of war status.
In addition to personnel, hors de combat may refer to anything out of action or disabled.
Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions defines:
A person is ‘hors de combat’ if:
- (a) he is in the power of an adverse Party;
- (b) he clearly expresses an intention to surrender; or
- (c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself;
provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.