Among civilians, the concept of direct participation in military operations can be confusing. While the concept is not limited to military personnel, it is usually used to describe those who do not take part in a war. The Israeli Supreme Court has confirmed that there is no definitive definition for direct participation, but that the concept is nevertheless a legitimate one. It is unclear whether direct participation is a military or legal term, and whether it is a one time occurrence or a continuous practice.
As with any military service, civilians serve to augment the force and improve readiness. In addition to their military expertise, civilians bring diverse views, experience and knowledge to the table. Among the many benefits civilians can bring to the table are expertise in law, social science and management. They can also serve as a cultural reference point, bringing a different perspective to the political process.
The concept of civilian as non-military person may be new, but its origins are traced back to the early 19th century, when it was synonymous with a judge. Today, the term is used to refer to experts on non-military law. It is also used to refer to the status of members of non-state armed groups. However, international humanitarian law does not recognize these groups as combatants.
In fact, international humanitarian law only recently embraced the notion of civilian protection. This includes protection against attack and a system for protecting civilians from the effects of military operations. Although the concept of civilian protection has been around for years, only recently have a number of key provisions been put into practice.
The ICRC has framed a grey area of civilians participating in hostilities. It is not uncommon for civilians to be involved in hostilities without formal affiliation. It is also common for civilians to be involved in hostilities in a context of a spontaneous uprising in an occupied territory. These participants are not combatants and may be subject to fair trial guarantees. In addition, they may be entitled to certain privileges under international law, depending on the nature of the conflict.
There are many differences between civilians and combatants. In some instances, civilians may be combatants, while in other instances they may be neutral. In the case of terrorists, it is important to understand that while they may be involved in a conflict, they are not entitled to the benefits of combatants.
The concept of civilian as non-military may be new, but its origins are tracable back to the early 19th century, when military personnel socialized separately from civilians. Today, civilians are a diverse group, encompassing many different backgrounds and levels of analysis. As such, there is no single definition of civilian. It is a complex matter to define the true scope of the term, but the ICRC has outlined some of its key characteristics.
While the ICRC has framed a grey region of civilians participating in hostilities, there is no standardized definition for the concept. The Court has ruled that the concept is best explained by looking at individual cases, and each situation needs to be examined on a case by case basis.