Explainer: What the Geneva Convention says about treatment of Prisoners of War

Capture of IAF pilot Here’s how Pakistan must treat him under the Geneva conventions

The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under IHL.

Posting the video would be a violation under Article 13 of the Geneva Conventions, Rachel E. VanLandingham, a military justice expert at the Southwestern Law School in Los Angeles, said in an interview.

The Geneva Conventions extensively defined the basic rights of wartime prisoner, including civilians and military personnel, established protections for the wounded and sick, and established measures to safeguard civilians in and around a war-zone. Article 5 states the provisions apply to prisoners from their capture to their release and repatriation. The main aim of these conventions was to limit the horrors of war.

The official at the army headquarters said that when soldiers from Pakistan or China had in the past inadvertently crossed over into Indian territory, India had accorded them POW status and treated them as per the Geneva Conventions.

Before the MEA briefing, the Pakistan Army had released a 46-second video showing a blindfolded man claiming he is IAF's Wing Commander Abhinandan. However, dignity demands that he should be extended all the facilities which are given to prisoner of war under the Geneva Convention. The Convention's Article 4 defines a POW as member of the armed forces of a party who falls into the hands of the adverse party during an global armed conflict and it provides a wide range of protection for them including defining their rights.

A conflict will be classified as an worldwide armed conflict irrespective of the intensity and duration of the same, if states resort to their armed forces, as held by the global Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in the Ramiz Delalic Case.




Under the third convention, prisoners are only required to give their name, rank, birth date and serial number when captured.

India and Pakistan are both signatories of the Geneva Conventions. If the POW refused to answer any question, the POW must not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment.

POWs must be evacuated to a site far away from the site of capture and the evacuation must be done in a humane way. The Indian government made it clear that no harm should come to its defence personnel in the neighbour's custody. When more information was sought, Commander Varthaman replied coolly: "I'm sorry sir.that's all I'm supposed to tell you".

In addition, Pakistan is obligated to safeguard Varthaman's physical and mental health with respect to his quarters (Article 25), quality and quantity food (Article 26), clothing (Article 28), medical checkup (Article 30 requires this at least once a month), coupled with an express obligation to protect his religious beliefs and ensure that he is able to fulfil his religious rites without any hindrance (Article 34).

What is International Humanitarian Law?

IAF flight lieutenant K Nachiketa was captured by Pakistan soldiers during the Kargil war.

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