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Iraq: Treatment of prisoners of war

Monday 24 March 2003

Iraq: Treatment of prisoners of war

Amnesty International is calling on all parties to the war to treat prisoners of war in full conformity with the Third Geneva Convention, following broadcasts of captured Iraqi and US soldiers, and to declare their willingness to refer alleged war crimes to an independent commission headed by a New Zealand judge.

The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, of which Sir Kenneth Keith is the president, was created under the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions to establish the facts and report recommendations to the parties to the conflict.

Neither Iraq nor the USA have ratified the Protocol establishing the independent Commission.

Any grave violations of the Geneva Conventions, found by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, could form the basis of war crimes indictments after conflict.

"The impartial investigation of alleged war crimes is central to building international confidence in human rights justice during and following the war," said Ced Simpson, Executive Director of Amnesty International NZ.

"Prisoners of war should not be subjected to any form of torture or ill-treatment and should be given immediate access to the International Committee of the Red Cross."

According to the Third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war "are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour" (Article 14) and "must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity" (Article 13). Torture or inhuman treatment of prisoners of war is a grave breach of the Convention (Article 130).

Each party to the Convention has an obligation to search for those suspected of having committed such breaches and bring them to justice before its own courts or hand them over for trial to another party (Article 129).

The New Zealand section of Amnesty International is calling on the New Zealand government to include promotion of the use of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission as part of a proactive campaign for human rights during this war.

The New Zealand Government has already declared its interest in the humanitarian situation in Iraq and in the post-conflict rebuilding phase.

Amnesty International has also called on all media to ensure in its use of images that the dignity of all prisoners of war, whether Iraqi or US or other, is respected.

Meanwhile the human rights organisation continues to monitor US treatment of prisoners taken during the "war against terrorism". There are still over 600 prisoners in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, who have not been charged, tried, or accorded prisoner of war status.

For comment contact:

Ced Simpson BH 0-4-938 0716 / 0-4-938 0717
Rebecca Lineham BH 0-4-971 1386


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