What Is a Civilian?

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In the United States, the term civilian refers to a person or group that is not in the armed forces. People who serve in the civilian ranks are not sworn police officers, but are instead civilian employees who work in law enforcement, emergency services, and other areas. Civilians bring valuable skills and experience to the team, helping to improve our nation’s preparedness. They do not have to commit to a particular number of years of service, and do not need to pass a physical fitness test.

Parties to a conflict shall endeavour to conclude local agreements on the removal of civilians from encircled and besieged areas, and to respect civilian hospitals. These provisions are not applicable to the protection of civilians who take part in hostilities, or to the presence of small arms and ammunition by combatants in the area.

Protected persons in an occupied territory may receive individual relief consignments, or may be assisted by relief societies. Relief societies may not undergo structural or personnel changes unless the Occupying Power requests it. Relief organizations that serve the civilian population often provide essential public services and organize rescues. They also work to improve the living conditions of civilians affected by a conflict.