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A combatant who falls into the hands of an adverse party to a conflict in the course of an international armed conflict is a prisoner of war. Individuals who fall into the hands of the enemy during an armed conflict are protected under humanitarian law. If the individual is a combatant, he or she is accorded protection as a prisoner of war. If the individual is a civilian, he or she is protected as such. The treatment provided for prisoners of war can always be granted by the detaining power to detainees who do not meet the criteria and conditions set up by the Third Convention.

It can also be partially applied by way of Special Agreement in situations that do not amount to an international armed conflict. Under the new definition, prisoner-of-war status is no longer reserved exclusively for combatants who are members of the armed forces: it may also be granted to civilians who are members of resistance movements and to participants in popular uprisings.

Even if a combatant has committed grave violations of humanitarian law, he or she may not be deprived of prisoner-of-war status and the protections granted by this status. Determination of combatant and prisoner-of-war status must comply with criteria and procedures set by humanitarian law.

The definition of a prisoner of war is rarely applicable to internal armed conflicts. The Third Geneva Convention defines the categories of persons who are entitled to prisoners of war status:. GCIV Art. Under the new definition, prisoner-of-war status may also be granted to armed groups that do not formally belong to regular armed forces API Arts. The extended definition of armed forces and combatant includes:.


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According to the Additional Protocol I, the status of prisoner of war is linked with the objective criteria based on direct participation in the conflict, rather that legal criteria based on the formal belonging to armed forces. Therefore, both combatants and civilians directly taking part in a conflict may claim prisoner-of-war status and the protection attached to it. A person who takes part in hostilities and falls into the power of an adverse party shall be presumed to be a prisoner of war.

The individual will be afforded protection under the Third Convention if he claims the status of prisoner of war, if he appears to be entitled to such status, or if the party on which he depends claims such status on his behalf by notifying the detaining Power or the Protecting Power [ICRC]. Should any doubt arise as to whether any such person is entitled to prisoner-of-war status, he shall continue to have such status and, therefore, to be protected by the Third Convention and this Protocol until such time as his status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

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API Art. Humanitarian law creates a framework that sets up procedural guarantees used when deciding whether a person should qualify as a civilian or a combatant, and whether he or she should enjoy the status of prisoner of war. A certain number of guarantees are foreseen to regulate which persons—either combatants or civilians—are granted the status of prisoner of war. This prevents the detaining power from being able to discretionarily decide on the status of the prisoner. Further guarantees grant the protection afforded to prisoners of war even to those who may not directly enjoy the prisoner-of-war status.

Any person who falls into the power of an adverse party shall be presumed to be a prisoner of war. In order to prevent challenges to whether a combatant belongs to the armed forces, Additional Protocol I expands the application of this principle. Prisoner-of-war status is granted both to groups of armed forces and to anybody taking part in the hostilities.

The Third Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I stipulate that where doubt arises as to whether somebody is entitled to the status of prisoner of war, status shall be determined by a competent tribunal, and not by the detaining power. Should any doubt arise as to whether persons, having committed a belligerent act and having fallen into the hands of the enemy, belong to any of the categories of combatant enumerated in GCIII Art. A person who takes part in the hostilities and falls into the hands of the adverse party is presumed to be a prisoner of war if he claims the status of prisoner of war or if he appears to be entitled to such status or if the party on which he depends claims such status on his behalf by notifying the detaining power or the protecting power ICRC.

Should any doubt arise as to whether any such person is entitled to prisoner-of-war status, he shall continue to have such status and, therefore, to be protected by the Third Convention and Additional Protocol I until such time as his status has been determined by a competent tribunal API Art. In such situations, protection of an individual is strengthened; according to Additional Protocol I, where the detained person claims such status, a competent tribunal decides, and the procedures may be controlled, in particular by the ICRC.

This measure is crucial as it protects civilians from being subject to improper criminal prosecution by the detaining power, as a result of having taken part directly in the hostilities. If a person who has fallen into the power of an adverse party is not held as a prisoner of war and is to be tried by that party for an offense arising out of the hostilities, he shall have the right to assert his entitlement to prisoner-of-war status before a judicial tribunal and to have that question adjudicated.

Whenever possible under the applicable procedure, this adjudication shall occur before the trial for the offense. Civilians who take direct part in the hostilities and for such time as they take a direct part in hostilities are not afforded the protection humanitarian law normally grants to civilians API Art. As noted previously, they may be granted prisoner-of-war status under certain circumstances API Art. This means that the detaining power must prove before a competent tribunal that an individual may not benefit from this status.

Persons not granted combatant or prisoner-of-war status will be treated as civilians. As a minimum, they will be afforded fundamental guarantees if detained, and due process of law will apply if they have to be prosecuted for violations of humanitarian law. Children, even if they are combatants, remain protected by the special provisions foreseen for them by humanitarian law, whether or not they are prisoners of war API Art.

Some wrongly claim that where armed groups have violated humanitarian law, they may be deprived of combatant or prisoner-of-war status. According to the Geneva Conventions, members of armed forces must be under responsible command that is able to comply with obligations under humanitarian law. However, this does not impact the prisoner-of-war status of those who have taken part in hostilities.

Additional Protocol I made this point clear. A prisoner may be prosecuted for violations of humanitarian law while maintaining his or her rights as a prisoner of war, including judicial guarantees. The distinction between civilians and combatants is the core element of the protection granted to civilians under humanitarian law. Therefore, the Geneva Conventions insist that combatants are obliged to distinguish themselves from the civilian population and must carry their arms openly.

A combatant who fails to meet the requirement to distinguish himself from civilians and who falls into the power of an adverse party forfeits his right to be a prisoner of war API Art. Additional Protocol I weakened the obligation for combatants to distinguish themselves as it recognizes that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities, an armed combatant may be unable to adequately distinguish himself.

Therefore, such obligation does not include the duty to wear uniform and distinct insignias; it may be enough to openly carry arms when engaged in a military operation. However, this article stipulates that, even when denied prisoner-of-war status, the combatant continues to enjoy protection equivalent to that granted to prisoners of war by Geneva Convention III and Additional Protocol I.

Again, it is up to a competent tribunal to assess the situation and decide on the status, not to the detaining power. The difference between prisoner-of-war status and being treated as a prisoner of war implies that an individual who has used force without acting openly as a combatant may be prosecuted according to the domestic law of the detaining power for this fact.

Many were taken prisoner of war or went missing in action long ago. Deputy Defense Secretary David L.


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  4. Attending the event were several former POWs representing many conflicts the United States has participated in. He'd been a top turret gunner in a B Bomber and was captured by the Germans on his 25th bomber mission in late May , just 10 days before D-Day. John Pedevillano, a bombardier, was shot down over Nazi Germany in April We will never let your sacrifices be forgotten. Nor will we ever forget or stop working to bring home those who are still missing. Robert H.

    Prisoners Of War Can't Be Treated Like Most Prisoners

    The Third Geneva Convention of , or GC III , lays down an extremely detailed body of rules that provide basic rights and a minimum standard of treatment that are to be afforded to all prisoners of war. The most concise answer to this question: the armed forces of a party to an international armed conflict, other than its medical and religious personnel, are entitled to prisoner of war status when they fall into the power of the enemy. The full answer is slightly longer.

    The neat classification cited above is contained in the First Additional Protocol of , or AP I, and therefore only applies to international armed conflicts between or within the nations that have ratified it. The Third Geneva Convention, which like the other Geneva Conventions has been ratified by every nation in the world and therefore has universal application, also contains a definition of prisoners of war which is broader than that in AP I. The prisoner of war regime only applies to international armed conflicts IACs —those between two or more nations, situations of military occupation, and qualifying wars of national liberation.

    It does not apply in non-international armed conflicts NIACs —qualifying conflicts between a state and a non-state armed group, or between multiple non-state armed groups. The absence of the prisoner of war regime in NIAC is one of the biggest differences between the two types of conflict. Members of armed forces of a party to an IAC are entitled to protection as prisoners of war. In the case of doubt as to whether a person is entitled to prisoner of war status, they are to receive the protection of GC III until their status has been determined by a competent tribunal.

    A combatant only loses their right to protection as a prisoner of war if they are captured while not distinguishing themselves from the civilian population when engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. In such a case, the combatant must still be granted the protections afforded to prisoners of war under GC III, but can now be punished for their unprivileged participation in hostilities.

    The purpose of the detention of prisoners of war is simply to remove them from the battlefield, and not as a means of punishment. The detention of prisoners of war on this basis is an exception to the general principle of human rights law that a person cannot be deprived of their liberty if they have not been found guilty of a crime. As soon as a combatant falls into the hands of the enemy in an IAC, the rules governing the conduct of hostilities cease to apply and the protective POW framework described in this article begins to apply.

    They may therefore no longer be made the subject of attack and must be treated in accordance with the humanitarian provisions of the Third Convention. The general principle upon which the protective regime under the Third Geneva Convention operates is that prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.

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    Acts causing death or serious injury to prisoners of war are prohibited, as is making them the subject of medical or scientific experiments, a gruesome practise to which thousands were subjected during World War II. Prisoners of war must be protected at all times, particularly against acts of violence and against public curiosity, and are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and honor.

    Reprisals against POWs are prohibited. When questioned on the subject, POWs are famously bound to disclose their names, date of birth, and military rank and serial number, and may be subject to a restriction of their privileges if they do not. They are not bound to provide any other information, though there is no prohibition on questioning prisoners of war, nor on offering incentives for their cooperation.

    Prisoners of War

    However, no physical or mental coercion of any kind is permitted to secure information, and the wilful killing, torture, inhuman treatment, or wilful causing of serious injury are grave breaches of the Third Convention and war crimes. Prisoners of war, not being nationals of the detaining power, are not bound to it by any duty of allegiance and naturally cannot be obliged to provide it with any assistance nor any information other than that required to identify them and register their capture. Prisoners of war cannot be punished for the mere fact that they participated in hostilities— combatant privilege provides an immunity from being prosecuted for using force against persons or objects in a manner which is consistent with international humanitarian law.

    To take two prominent examples, both Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein were detained by the United States as prisoners of war and subsequently criminally prosecuted. Prisoners of war are kept in internment for the duration of hostilities. Crucially, they are not incarcerated , in recognition of the fact that the prisoner of war regime is not designed as punishment. Except where necessary to safeguard their health or in accordance with disciplinary measures, prisoners of war cannot be held in close confinement , and collectively they are not to be held in penitentiaries.

    They may therefore not be kept in locked cells but are rather simply to be kept within the limits of the POW camp in which they are held. POWs must be evacuated from the combat zone as soon as possible after their capture. Prisoners of war must be interned only on land, away from the battlefield, sheltered from aerial bombardment and other hazards of war to the same extent as the local civilian population. Men and women are to be dormed separately. Prisoners of war must receive medical inspection at least once per month and at all times can present themselves to medical authorities for examination.

    Camps must have adequate infirmaries and, if necessary, isolation wards, and prisoners of war with a serious disease or requiring special treatment must be admitted to a military or civilian medical unit for treatment.

    Definition of Prisoners of War (Third 1949 Geneva Convention)

    Clothing , underwear, and footwear must be provided by the detaining power, taking into account the local climate. Camps must be furnished with baths and showers, and prisoners of war must be given soap and water for their personal toilet and washing their laundry.

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    Prisoners of war must be given food of a quantity, quality, and variety to keep them in good health and to prevent weight loss.