- An individual who is part of a recognized military force participating in a declared conflict
- An individual who participates voluntarily in a conflict as part of a militia or similar group, who is under a recognized command, can be easily identified, openly carries weapons, and behaves consistently with established warfare rules and norms
- Due to their status as lawful combatants, prisoners of war are treated differently under international law.
- Rebel groups striving to gain recognition as lawful combatants need to follow the laws and customs of war.
- Understanding the difference between a lawful combatant and an unlawful combatant is crucial in the application of humanitarian law.