Friday, June 5, 2009

"Prisoners of War Must at All Times Be Humanely Treated"

Did you know that in January of 2008, Canada placed the U.S. on a list of rogue countries that torture? See the BBC News article, "Canada Puts U.S. on Torture List."

We are hearing so much these days about how the Bush Administration decided to stop obeying the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of prisoners, that I think it is worthwhile to first, define the meaning of "Geneva Conventions;" and second, to publish the pertinent clauses. 

Definition of "Geneva Conventions," from The U.S. Military History Companion at 

The Geneva Convention of 22 August 1864 was the world's first multilateral humanitarian treaty. Sixteen nations were present, responding to public concern about the sufferings of sick and wounded soldiers, well publicized by the labors of Florence Nightingale in the Crimean WarClara Barton and the U.S. Sanitary Commission in the American Civil War, and the dramatic book The Memory of Solferino(1862) by Henry Dunant, a Swiss, about the casualties at the Battle of Solferino in 1859. Dunant and four other Genevan philanthropists had already launched, in October 1863, what would become the international Red Cross movement. Now the twelve initial signatories bound their armies to respect and protect the lives and workplaces of each other's ambulance and medical personnel; to incorporate volunteer auxiliaries into their medical corps; and to signify their virtual neutrality by a protective emblem, “a red cross on a white ground.” The United States acceded to the convention in 1882.

Pertinent Clauses on the Treatment of Prisoners: These are quoted from the Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Adopted on 12 August 1949 by the Diplomatic Conference for the Establishment of International Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War, held in Genevafrom 21 April to 12 August, 1949; entry into force 21 October 1950 (as published by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights). The complete text may be seen here. Further information may be obtained at The Geneva Conventions; A Reference Guide published by the Society of Professional Journalists.

...the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (Article 3)

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. (Article 13)

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. (Article 17)

Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden. (Article 87)

Grave breaches to which the preceding Article relates shall be those involving any of the following acts, if committed against persons or property protected by the Convention: wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, compelling a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of the hostile Power, or wilfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in this Convention. (Article 130)

1 comment:

Sylvia K said...

It's sad but true, I'm afraid! How far we've fallen from where we once were, how we were once viewed! Great post!