About those Geneva Conventions (II) - Macleans.ca
 

About those Geneva Conventions (II)


 

An exchange from last week’s meeting of Parliament’s special committee on the mission in Afghanistan. The full and official transcript of the meeting is not yet online.

Mr. Laurie Hawn (Edmonton Centre – Conservative – Parliamentary Sec. to Minister of Defence): You mentioned that the Afghan prisoners are not POWs but we’re treating them like POWs. That suggests to me that we are perhaps going above and beyond what would be our legal international obligations. Is that a fair statement or not?

BGen Kenneth W. Watkin: One of the challenges with respect to, particularly contemporary armed conflict is so few are between states. The vast majority of the treaty law is with respect to one state fighting another state. With respect for instance to the four Geneva Conventions and in particular Geneva Convention 3 that deals with POWs and Geneva Convention 4 that deals with civilians, there’s a set treaty regime. There’s Common Article 3 to the four conventions which will provide for non-international armed conflicts.

There is a treaty and additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions which specifically deals with non-international armed conflict. In terms of customary international law which relies that assessment on the treaties themselves, that sets a well established and a high standard of treatment. Certainly the approach of the Canadian Forces is a matter of doctrine is to apply that high standard in terms of anyone who they detain and in that is standards of humanity and care in treating.


 

About those Geneva Conventions (II)

  1. Certainly the approach of the Canadian Forces is a matter of doctrine is to apply that high standard in terms of anyone who they detain and in that is standards of humanity and care in treating.

    I'm confident that this statement is true. Canadian Forces detainees are probably treated with more humanity and care than 99.9% of POWs in the world today, or at any other time in world history.

  2. As pointed out in the last thread, the DoD and Attorney General presented as evidence in the case against Amnesty International the Detainee agreements with Afghanistan which require the prisoners to be treated in accordance with article 3 of the conventions. Points 172-181 here:

    http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2008/2008fc336/2

    Shame on the military for honouring the legal obligations agreed to by their political masters. Shame I say!

  3. Having chosen to support one faction in the Afghan civil war, I think we should apply the same standards to captured soldiers of the opposing warring faction that we would apply if we were at war with another state.

  4. I think the problem was that the Canadians agreed to treat detainees as PoWs even though they are not PoWs, thus inverting the logic/intent of the Geneva Conventions

    • They weren't "inverting" the logic of the convention. If anything, they were "extending" the logic/intent of the Conventions, which is ensuring humanitarian treatment for combatants in military conflicts.

      The detainees have been incarcerated precisely because they are believed to be combatants. Claiming they aren't "soldiers" was a Bushian device used to justify the refusal of humanitarian treatment. Despite the admiration Harper has for Bush and his wars, Canadians would not want to stoop to that level.