The Geneva Convention and Terrorism

Consider this diagram.


Now, answer this question: which line is straightest within the box at the top, A or B.

The answer is that both are perfectly straight within the box. B even is straight further but then curves. Neither of these facts are relevant to the question however.

This is a diagram which I thought up the other day, and it is intended to illustrate the USA’s treatment of terrorism under the Geneva Convention.

The (B) box illustrates the treatment given to POWs by the USA. Box A illustrates those by other countries such as France.

No one questions that the USA treats genuine POWs well. Iraqi army regulars captured were well treated and released.

What people question, and in truth get quite heated about, is the treatment of those outside the GC.

Quote from Article 4: (emphasis mine)

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:

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 corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) That of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) That of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) That of carrying arms openly;

(d) That of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.


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.

If we are to take those terrorising Baghdad, they do not do b, c, or even d above.

That puts them outside the Convention, and outside it’s protection. The point of the convention was not to shelter terrorists, but to protect those who did fight, but who are no longer able to fight, and minimise loss of life in this way.

1 comment

  1. Like the article, but France having POW’s, I thought they were more likely the POW’s going from historical references of the last Century that is….

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