The Differences in the Treatment of Prisoners of War by Britain, Germany and Japan

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The Differences in the Treatment of Prisoners of War by Britain, Germany and Japan

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According international law a POW is defined as "persons captured by a belligerent while fighting in the military." International law includes "rules on the treatment of prisoners of war but extends protection only to combatants. This excludes civilians who engage in hostilities (by international law they are war criminals) and forces that do not observe conventional requirements for combatants." 1

In order to protect the rights of Prisoners of War a convention was

set up which laid down the conditions in which a prisoner could be

held. The experiences of the First World War meant the third

convention could be adapted to be more protective of prisoners of war,

in terms of food, accommodation, punishments and work, it stated that

"no prisoner of war could be forced to disclose to his captor any

information other than his identity (i.e., his name and rank, but not

his military unit, home town, or address of relatives). Every prisoner

of war was entitled to adequate food and medical care and had the

right to exchange correspondence and receive parcels." The amount of

food was to "be equivalent in quantity and quality to that of the

depot troops." In terms of work all POWs were to receive "pay either

according to the pay scale of their own country or to that of their

captor, whichever was less; they could not be required to work." This

work was not to expose them to "danger, and in no case could they be

required to perform work directly related to military operations." In

terms of disciplining POWs "Imprisonment is the most severe


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...ed. Also the British Government has launched an

investigation into the treatment of Iraqi POWs by British Soldiers.

"The Sun newspaper reported one Iraqi POW allegedly beaten to death by

a British soldier had suffered at least 50 injuries. It said the Iraqi

was among nine captives taken by the Queen's Lancashire Regiment

during a raid on a hotel in Basra last year." 40

I therefore agree with this statement by Sir Winston Churchill that,

"The statesman who yields to war fever must realize that once the

signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the slave of

unforeseeable and uncontrollable events."41

It seems to be the case that during war viciousness, anger and the

strain on resources often causes peaceful agreements to fall by the

wayside and that this treatment is simply a cruel reality of war.

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