Geneva Convention: Legal safeguards available to IAF officer

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Pakistan claimed it had an Indian pilot in custody following an aerial encounter with the Indian Air Force over the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The Pakistan Army also released a video that shows a blindfolded man, identifying himself as a Wing Commander-rank IAF officer and his service number. Then, he asks, “Am I with the Pakistani Army”.

The Geneva Conventions were signed by world leaders in 1949. Ratified by 196 countries, it is the most widely-supported international treaty of its kind. 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.

The Third Geneva Convention of 1949, or GC III, lays down an extremely detailed body of rules that provide basic rights and a minimum standard of treatment that are to be afforded to all prisoners of war. The prisoner of war regime only applies to international armed conflicts (IACs)—those between two or more nations, situations of military occupation, and qualifying wars of national liberation.

The law states: "Their detention is not a form of punishment, but only aims to prevent further participation in the conflict. They must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities. The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL)." The IHL also orders countries to provide minimum conditions of detention and directs them to accommodate the POW in terms of food, clothing, hygiene and medical care supplies.

Pakistan had violated the conventions by releasing a purported video showing IAF officer tied up, handcuffed and bloodied. Under Geneva Conventions every party is required to treat prisoners humanely. We hope Pakistan will also respect its obligations towards the IAF officer.