Human shield

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Human shield is a military and political term describing the deliberate placement of civilians in or around combat targets to deter an enemy from attacking those targets. It may also refer to the use of civilians to literally shield combatants during attacks, by forcing the civilians to march in front of the soldiers. This is done in the hope that the other party will be reluctant to attack them. Furthermore, if the other party attacks these targets anyway, the resulting civilian casualties have propaganda value.

Using this technique increases the civilian casualty rate and is illegal by any nation that is party to the Fourth Geneva Convention.[1]


13th Century Mongols

During a siege the Mongols would gather a crowd of local residents or soldiers surrendered from previous battles, and would drive them forward in sieges and battles. These "alive boards" or "human shields" would often take the brunt of enemy arrows and crossbow bolts, thus leaving the Mongol warriors safer.[citation needed]

World War II

After World War II it was claimed by German SS general Gottlob Berger that there was a plan, proposed by the Luftwaffe and approved by Adolf Hitler, to set up special POW camps for captured airmen of the Royal Air Force and the United States Army Air Force in large German cities, to act as human shields against their bombing raids. Berger realised that this would contravene the Geneva Convention and argued that there was not enough barbed wire - as a result this plan was not implemented.[2][3] However, the practice was widespread in the war on the Eastern front, where the Wehrmacht used civilians ahead of their troops in an effort to deter Soviet attacks.[citation needed]

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