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Investigative Report: What are violations of the Geneva Convention?

by source0 Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 9:07 PM

After the Pentagon's kerfluffle over the broadcasting of images of American POWs over Iraqi television, I saw the following image on Yahoo News. This prompted me to do an investigation of the Geneva Convention, relative to Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Investigative Report...
powpic.jpg, image/jpeg, 294x450

Is this photo in violation of the Geneva Convention?

I began by looking at the exact text of the Geneva Convention relative to Treatment of Prisoners of War, at http://193.194.138.190/html/menu3/b/91.htm. I did not find anything specifically relative to releasing photos, images, or video of POWs. (I even did a word search just to make sure.)

However, I did find these articles, which the evidence in the photo clearly contravenes (in an obvious, surface manner):

----

Article 14

Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour. Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favourable as that granted to men. Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.

Article 18

All effects and articles of personal use, except arms, horses, military equipment and military documents shall remain in the possession of prisoners of war, likewise their metal helmets and gas masks and like articles issued for personal protection. Effects and articles used for their clothing or feeding shall likewise remain in their possession, even if such effects and articles belong to their regulation military equipment.

At no time should prisoners of war be without identity documents. The Detaining Power shall supply such documents to prisoners of war who possess none.

Badges of rank and nationality, decorations and articles having above all a personal or sentimental value may not be taken from prisoners of war.

Article 20

The evacuation of prisoners of war shall always be effected humanely and in conditions similar to those for the forces of the Detaining Power in their changes of station.

The Detaining Power shall supply prisoners of war who are being evacuated with sufficient food and potable water, and with the necessary clothing and medical attention. The Detaining Power shall take all suitable precautions to ensure their safety during evacuation, and shall establish as soon as possible a list of the prisoners of war who are evacuated.

Article 27

Clothing, underwear and footwear shall be supplied to prisoners of war in sufficient quantities by the Detaining Power, which shall make allowance for the climate of the region where the prisoners are detained. Uniforms of enemy armed forces captured by the Detaining Power should, if suitable for the climate, be made available to clothe prisoners of war.

The regular replacement and repair of the above articles shall be assured by the Detaining Power. In addition, prisoners of war who work shall receive appropriate clothing, wherever the nature of the work demands.

Article 40

The wearing of badges of rank and nationality, as well as of decorations, shall be permitted.

----

I searched the whole document to find anything relative to the Pentagon's accusations of Iraqi violations by showing images & video of US prisoners on Arab media. In fact, NO ARTICLES EXIST with express references to publishing photos, video, or other public display of prisoners of war.

So where did they get this? I found part of an answer at a PBS NewsHour Extra study guide (http://www.pbs.org/newshour/extra/teachers/lessonplans/iraq/prisoners_3-23.html) that indicates what the US was referring to was Article 13 of the Geneva Convention, stated thus:

----

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.

----

I did not see the POW footage but I do understand how this can also be construed as an Iraqi violation of the Geneva Convention. (I found some background information on the content of the video here: http://www.boston.com/dailyglobe2/083/nation/Airing_of_POW_footage_blasted+.shtml).

The Iraqi's pressure for information on the US POWs' hometowns are also in violation of article 17 of the Geneva Convention, which states thus:

----

Article 17

Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information. If he wilfully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or status.

Each Party to a conflict is required to furnish the persons under its jurisdiction who are liable to become prisoners of war, with an identity card showing the owner's surname, first names, rank, army, regimental, personal or serial number or equivalent information, and date of birth. The identity card may, furthermore, bear the signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the owner, and may bear, as well, any other information the Party to the conflict may wish to add concerning persons belonging to its armed forces. As far as possible the card shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be issued in duplicate. The identity card shall be shown by the prisoner of war upon demand, but may in no case be taken away from him.

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Prisoners of war who, owing to their physical or mental condition, are unable to state their identity, shall be handed over to the medical service. The identity of such prisoners shall be established by all possible means, subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraph.

The questioning of prisoners of war shall be carried out in a language which they understand.

----

However, this evidence does indicate violations of the Convention on either sides of the conflict.

In addition, I found these additional articles which seem to have been contravened by the US relative to its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, detained after the Afghanistan conflict:

----

Article 22

Prisoners of war may be interned only in premises located on land and affording every guarantee of hygiene and healthfulness. Except in particular cases which are justified by the interest of the prisoners themselves, they shall not be interned in penitentiaries.

Prisoners of war interned in unhealthy areas, or where the climate is injurious for them, shall be removed as soon as possible to a more favourable climate.

Article 25

Prisoners of war shall be quartered under conditions as favourable as those for the forces of the Detaining Power who are billeted in the same area. The said conditions shall make allowance for the habits and customs of the prisoners and shall in no case be prejudicial to their health.

The foregoing provisions shall apply in particular to the dormitories of prisoners of war as regards both total surface and minimum cubic space, and the general installations, bedding and blankets.

The premises provided for the use of prisoners of war individually or collectively, shall be entirely protected from dampness and adequately heated and lighted, in particular between dusk and lights out. All precautions must be taken against the danger of fire.

----

As you may remember, detainees at Guantanamo were hooded, gagged, and bound, then shipped to temporary quarters at Camp X-Ray consisting of simple chain-link fences, with no protection from the elements. They were also denied access from the Red Cross, which is also in violation of Article 73:

----

Article 73

In the absence of special agreements between the Powers concerned on the conditions for the receipt and distribution of collective relief shipments, the rules and regulations concerning collective shipments, which are annexed to the present Convention, shall be applied.

The special agreements referred to above shall in no case restrict the right of prisoners' representatives to take possession of collective relief shipments intended for prisoners of war, to proceed to their distribution or to dispose of them in the interest of the prisoners.

Nor shall such agreements restrict the right of representatives of the Protecting Power, the International Committee of the Red Cross or any other organization giving assistance to prisoners of war and responsible for the forwarding of collective shipments, to supervise their distribution to the recipients.

----

The US position on this matter was that the Guantanamo detainees were not accorded POW status; that "the al-Qaeda prisoners did not belong to an army, or wear distinguishable uniforms and insignia - they were people engaged in attacks on civilians." (source: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/1784700.stm).

However, further study of the Geneva Convention does accord the Guantanamo detaineeds POW status by default, according to the following proviso of Article 4:

----

Article 4

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

3. Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.

----

Human Rights Watch has also acknowledged the legal right of Afghan combatants to be prisoners of war protected under the Geneva Convention (http://www.hrw.org/press/2002/01/us011102.htm).



Conclusion

War is never really a clean, civil business. Laws and conventions of war can be made till the day of Armageddon but in reality, violations will happen in the fog and cloud and dust of war.

This should NOT, however, be construed as an apology for the actions of either side in the conduct of this war; however, I do believe that responsibility for enforcing the conventions of war should be conferred on those with the superior position in this war, especially one waged on the basis of "violations of conventions of war."

In effect, Rumsfeld and the other chickenhawks should take a good long look in the mirror before accusing others of war crimes.

But then again, in an illegal war, what does an aggressor care for legality, except when it serves them?

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LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 12 posted about this article.
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
j j Friday, Apr. 11, 2003 at 9:19 PM
awww, how cute! source0 Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 1:29 AM
Yes, how cute... Diogenes Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 2:07 AM
On Yahoo? MadMaxim Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 2:31 AM
the link. source0 Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 2:45 AM
Nice try fresca Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 3:22 AM
Thanks... MadMaxim Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 3:31 AM
Smokes? Amused. Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 5:16 AM
TO: MADMAXIM Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 6:13 AM
source0 daveman Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 7:27 AM
Fresca and Amused daveman Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 7:30 AM
Simple Simple Simon Saturday, Apr. 12, 2003 at 12:31 PM

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