The POW (Prisoner of War)

Rahman Mohamed

After the combat of war, there are the victors and the vanquished.  In the hands of the victors, from the vanquished, are the Prisoners of War.  According to International Humanitarian Law prisoners of war also have rights.

Before they can be given rights, prisoners of war must first be defined.

According to the Third Geneva Convention (1949), Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, found on the website of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Prisoners of War are those who have fallen into the power of the opposing forces. They include:

(1) Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
(2) Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corp…

(3) Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.
(4) Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof…

(5) Members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favourable treatment under any other provisions of international law.
(6) Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war….

It continues, saying civilians can become prisoners of war if they appear surprisingly and attack the detaining party, as long as they openly carry their arms.  Those who pledge allegiance to a government or a leader not recognized by the detaining party can become prisoners of war.

The treatment of these persons is just as clearly defined in Article 13:

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.  Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or serious endangering of the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention.

The Convention elaborates on the humane treatment of prisoners saying they’re not to be discriminated, no medical experiments shall be performed on them, and all of their possessions shall remain theirs; they’ll be provided with food, water, and removed from combat zone; they’ll be allowed the use of tobacco, be provided with clothing that will be regularly replaced, and they’ll be kept healthy and sanitary.  If a prisoner is a religious minister he’ll be free to minister to his community.

On 18 September 2013 the Vancouver Sun reported that prisoners [in Aleppo, Syria] are given barely enough food to survive, and are crammed together in small, dark rooms with no water or electricity.

Aleppo-based activist, Mohammad Saeed, said to the Vancouver Sun, via Skype, that “The life of detainees in that prison is dismal, … The guards give very little food to the prisoners and sell them medicine for as much as $10 for a painkiller pill”

Today in Syria Prisoners of War are not being treated humanely.

Can a party in a conflict really be obliged to treat an opponent who was once trying to take a life of a friend or family member as an equal?


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