DOD Memo: Talking Points on the Treatment of Enemy POWs under the Geneva Convention

This memo discusses the Geneva Convention, the protections it affords, proper treatment of the dead and responsibility for violations of the Convention protections.

Non-legal Memo
Monday, March 24, 2003
Thursday, June 29, 2006

March 24, 2003, 8:15 p.m.

C. Tierney/ DoD OGC Treatment of Enemy Prisoners of War
Under the Geneva Convention
Geneva Convention Reiative to rite Treatment of Prisoners of War

Fundamental treaty relative to the protection of enemy prisoners of war (EPW). Negotiated after WW II, over 170 parties, including the United States and Iraq.

Protections apply upon the capture by or surrender to enemy forces.

Capturing power responsible for the treatment of EPWs captured or held by its forces, irrespective of the individual responsibilities of the members of its forces.

Fundamental Protections

EPWs must at all times be humanely treated. Humane treatment is the
baseline, but EPW protections are much more extensive.

Any act or omission that causes the death or endangers a EPW is prohibited and is a serious breach of the Convention.

EPWs must be removed from the battlefield as soon as circumstances permit and at all times protected from physical and mental harm.

• EPWs must be provided adequate food, facilities and medical aid. •

EPWs must be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.

If questioned, EPWs may only be required to provide their name, rank, serial number, and date of birth.

o EPWs may not be subjected to physical or mental torture and those who refuse to answer questions may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

• Subject to valid security reasons, EPWs must be allowed to retain their
personal property, protective gear, and valuables. These items may not be _ taken from an EPW unless_ property accounted and receipted.

Representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross must be permitted access to EPWs as soon as practical.

Female EPWs must be protected against sexual assault. Female EPWs shall be treated with the regard due to their sex and, like all EPWs, are entitled to respect for their person and their honor.

Protection Against Insults and Public Curiosity

As noted, EPWs must be protected against insults and public curiosity. This provision of the Geneva Convention prohibits EPWs from being forced to appear before television cameras or paraded in public.

Iraq's recent videotaping of U.S. EPWs, which was aired on al-Jazecra, unlawfully humiliated EPWs and violates the Geneva Convention.

o During the first Gulf War, Iraq similarly mistreated Coalition EPWs.

Proper Treatment of the Dead

Governed by the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field.

Parties to the conflict must protect the dead against pillage and ill-treatment.

o The dead must be looked after and brought behind the lines with as much care as wounded.

Parties are also responsible to ensure that the dead are honorably interred and any graves respected.

Iraq's mistreatment of the bodies of U.S. servicernembers and its videotaping and publicizing these images violates these provisions of the law of war.

Coalition Forces EPW Treatment

Responilbility for Violations of the Geneva Convention Protections
• The mistreatment of EPWs violates the law of war.
o Specifically, grave breaches of the Geneva Convention include: the willful killing, torture, inhuman treatment, or the willful causing of great suffering or serious injury to body or health to an EPW.
• Those individuals who fail to provide Coalition EPWs with the protections required by the Geneva Convention will be held accountable for their actions (or inaction). Likewise, thoSe within the Iraqi military and regime who direct such action, or allow it to occur, will also be held accountable.