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The pioneers of war and the international red cross role

Prisoners of war and detainees protected under international humanitarian law 29-10-2010 Overview The third Geneva Convention provides a wide range of protection for prisoners of war.

It defines their rights and sets down detailed rules for their treatment and eventual release.

From the International Review of the Red Cross

International humanitarian law IHL also protects other persons deprived of liberty as a result of armed conflict. The rules protecting prisoners of war POWs are specific and were first detailed in the 1929 Geneva Convention.

  • On 12 October 1914 the Agency began operations in the Rath Museum in Geneva, setting up a system for processing information which allowed it to deal quickly and efficiently with the 5,000 requests it received daily;
  • These activities were subsequently taken over by the postal services of the neutral countries, i;
  • The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under IHL;
  • During the war another agency was established in Vienna, under the auspices of the Austrian government, primarily to process requests about Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war;
  • The first major offensives of 1914 were marked by the battles in northern and eastern France and by fierce fighting in Russia;
  • The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under IHL.

The status of POW only applies in international armed conflict. POWs are usually members of the armed forces of one of the parties to a conflict who fall into the hands of the adverse party. POWs cannot be prosecuted for taking a direct part in hostilities.

  • The first major offensives of 1914 were marked by the battles in northern and eastern France and by fierce fighting in Russia;
  • They must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities;
  • They are protected against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults, and public curiosity;
  • International humanitarian law IHL also protects other persons deprived of liberty as a result of armed conflict;
  • On 15 August 1914 it sent a circular to the National Societies asking them to give the composition of their special prisoner-of-war commi ssions and proposing the establishment of a central office to assist prisoners of war, in accordance with the mandate conferred upon it by the International Red Cross Conference in Washington in 1912.

Their detention is not a form of punishment, but only aims to prevent further participation in the conflict.

They must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities. The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under IHL. POWs must be treated humanely in all circumstances. They are protected against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults, and public curiosity.

IHL also defines minimum conditions of detention covering such issues as accommodation, food, clothing, hygiene and medical care. The fourth 1949 Geneva Convention and Additional Protocol I also provide extensive protection for civilian internees during international armed conflicts. If justified by imperative reasons of security, a party to the conflict may subject civilians to assigned residence or to internment.

Therefore, internment is a security measure, and cannot be used as a form of punishment.

Prisoners of war and detainees protected under international humanitarian law

Rules governing the treatment and conditions of detention of civilian internees under IHL are very similar to those applicable to prisoners of war. In non-international armed conflicts, Article 3 common to the 1949 Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II provide that persons deprived of liberty for reasons related to the conflict must also be treated humanely in all circumstances.

In particular, they are protected against murder, torture, as well as cruel, humiliating or degrading treatment. Those detained for participation in hostilities are not immune from criminal prosecution under the applicable domestic law for having done so.