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Pillaging, also known as plundering, is the forced seizure of another’s property, especially during wartime. Sometimes, pillaging refers to the property so seized or plundered during wartime. 

Pillaging is classified as a war crime; a violation of the codified wartime laws and treaties. The most recognized codified wartime laws are the Geneva Conventions. The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is also regarded as the most extensive source of wartime laws and war crimes.

To prove that there was pillaging at the International Criminal Court, one must prove that:

  • The alleged defendant has appropriated some property
  • The alleged defendant has appropriated the said property with the intent to use the property personally
  • The alleged defendant has appropriated the said property without the consent of the original owner
  • The alleged defendant has appropriated the said property during an international armed conflict.

However, the Geneva Conventions must apply to the victims of pillaging for the alleged defendant to be liable for the pillaging. 

Soldiers are governed by the Geneva Conventions I, II, and III. However, for unlawful combatants and civilians, the Geneva Convention IV is applicable. Article 8 of the Rome Statute defines war crimes, of which pillaging is included. Other war crimes include but are not limited to torture, biological experiments, mutilation, conscripting prisoners of war, conscripting children under the age of 15, unlawful confinement, unlawful deportation and transfer, and employing poisonous weaponry.

[Last updated in February of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]