What Is The Geneva Convention? How Does It Protect The Human Rights Of Prisoners Of War?

Posted: February 28, 2019

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What is the Geneva convention? What rights does it accord captives or prisoners of war? Given the social media usage of this term, here are some things you need to know. 

Since Wing Commander Abhinandan has been in the captivity of Pakistani army since yesterday, an increased mention of the Geneva Convention in public discourse is visible; however in this particular case the following points need to be considered.

(यह लेख आप हिंदी में भी पा सकते हैं: जेनेवा कन्वेंशन क्या है? यह कैसे युद्धबंदियों की सुरक्षा करता है?)

  1. Technically, he would not be considered as a POW because there is no declared war between India and Pakistan as of now. However, the Geneva Convention still applies as he is a captive in conflict (although the convention has specific rules for POWs, I am not getting into the details here)
  2. POWs and other captives are supposed to be kept safe in captivity to de-escalate the situation and their imprisonment isn’t meant to be punishment or revenge.
  3. One of the most important assertions of the convention is that they are protected against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults, and public curiosity.
  4. A POW must be provided with food, clothing, safe shelter, necessary medicines and/or medical help by the captor country.
  5. Their imprisonment is considered valid only for security reasons and as and when these reasons stand resolved, they must be returned safely and with due respect to their homeland, though in cases of war crimes there can be legal actions against them.

The convention was framed in 1949 although parts of it had been created in the 1920s, and has been ratified by 146 countries, including India and Pakistan. These are some important aspects about the Geneva convention and it’s implementation that we need to understand, especially when we consider the emotionally heightened atmosphere at present. Let’s make sure we get our facts right before we rush to expound on serious issues which many of us know little about.

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Pooja Priyamvada is a columnist, professional translator and an online content and Social Media consultant.

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