|Iraq Must Not Parade
U.S. Should Also
Protect POWs from Improper Exposure
|(New York, March 24, 2003) –
It violates the Geneva Conventions for either the Iraqi or the U.S.
government to deliberately expose prisoners of war (POWs) to the
media, Human Rights Watch said today.
According to the Third Geneva Convention
of 1949, a detaining authority in wartime has a clear obligation not
to parade POWs, or allow them to be exposed to the public. The
prohibition is not a blanket ban on any image whatsoever of a POW;
for example, it would not extend to incidental filming of POWs, when
journalists are documenting broader military operations.
"Prisoners of war must at
all times be humanely treated. ... Likewise,
war must at all times be protected, particularly
acts of violence or intimidation and against
insults and public
curiosity. Measures of reprisal against
prisoners of war are
a detaining authority in wartime has a clear obligation not to
parade POWs, or allow them to be exposed to the public. Article 13
of the Third Geneva Convention (relative to the Treatment of
Prisoners of War) states:
“Prisoners of war must at all times
be humanely treated. ... 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.”
general, this provision requires that the authorities of the
detaining power be proactive in defending the honor and moral
integrity of the prisoner of war. Every POW when questioned is
required only to give name, rank, serial number and date of
This provision protecting POWs from “public curiosity”
appears to have been violated by both the Iraqi and the U.S.
governments. The Iraqi government has filmed American POWs and
interrogated them before cameras. The U.S. government has taken
insufficient measures to prevent journalists embedded with U.S.
forces from filming Iraqi POWs held by the United
U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has
appropriately criticized the Iraqi filming of American POWs.
However, he has said nothing to date about the filming of Iraqi POWs
by media operating alongside U.S. forces.
This is not the
first time that Secretary Rumsfeld has been unresponsive to concerns
that the United States may be acting in violation of the Geneva
Conventions. Human Rights Watch and others have previously
criticized the U.S. government for aspects of its treatment of
captured persons during the war in Afghanistan, particularly the
failure to properly determine the legal status of those held, and
“stress and duress” techniques that might amount to torture under
“American POWs in Iraqi custody need all
the help they can get to secure their Geneva Convention rights,”
said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “It’s
unfortunate that the United States hasn’t been a more staunch
defender of the Geneva Conventions in its own recent
U.S. forces have accorded POW status to Iraqi
soldiers they have detained in recent days.
otherwise mistreating prisoners of war is a war crime. The Iraqi
government’s treatment of U.S. POWs in the previous Gulf War gives
serious grounds for concern about their treatment currently.