Belligerents: The opposite term to Non-Combatants. All soldiers are regarded as belligerents and have certain rights recognised by International Law. If captured in battle and taken on surrender their lives must be spared. The laws of war require that definite conditions shall be complied with before a man can be recognised as a belligerent. He must be commanded by a responsible leader, wear distinctive uniform, carry arms openly, and obey the laws and customs of war. The possible exception is where the population of unoccupied territory spontaneously take up arms to resist invading troops, in which case they are entitled to belligerent rights.
If people who are not actually in the army take it upon themselves to defend their own houses or workshops, they not only run the risk of being captured and shot, but the chances are that they will induce the enemy to take reprisals on the rest of the population. 
References / notes
- Various contributors (1914). The War Book-of-Facts. 2nd Edition. A.W. Shaw Company, London p.137.
Glossary of terms and customs
This page forms part of our glossary of words and phrases of the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom of Great Britain during the Great War, which also includes: technicalities, trench slang, expressions in everyday use, nicknames, sobriquets, the titles and origins of British and Commonwealth Regiments, and warfare in general. Please feel free to help expand and improve this content.
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