About those Geneva Conventions


The military says prisoners in Afghanistan will be offered the H1N1 vaccine. The military says this is in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq says this is outrageous. Canadian Press says Canada doesn’t recognize the mission in Afghanistan as falling under the Geneva Conventions.

I confess some confusion. But here are the Geneva Conventions. And here is an excerpt from a joint statement issued a year ago by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.

First, we need to ensure security in the five southern Afghan provinces. This is where Canada has just recently transferred command of ISAF forces to the Netherlands. There is still hard work to be done there with boots on the ground. We are confident that Allies understand the importance of standing together and ensuring that ISAF has the forces, resources and flexibility for success in these provinces. It is our shared interest to always adhere to International Law. We operate in strict accordance with Geneva conventions. That will also improve NATO’s image in that part of the world.


About those Geneva Conventions

  1. Geneva Conventions do say that prisoners get the same treatment (food, shelther, health) as the military forces. And I expect we'd rather have our medical personnel over there able to care for the troops than busy having to make sure prisoners don't die of swine flu. And it's a contagious disease, so the fewer people have it, the better of everyone is. So it's a good idea.

  2. I thought you had to be a signatory of the conventions in other words where are the Taliban's names? The Geneva Conventions entered into force on 21 October 1950.
    Ratification grew steadily through the decades: 74 States ratified the Conventions during the 1950s, 48 States did so during the 1960s, 20 States signed on during the 1970s, and another 20 States did so during the 1980s. Twenty-six countries ratified the Conventions in the early 1990s, largely in the aftermath of the break-up of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and the former Yugoslavia.

    Seven new ratifications since 2000 have brought the total number of States Party to 194,

    • Nice quote cut.

      Here's the full quote.

      "Seven new ratifications since 2000 have brought the total number of States Party to 194, making the Geneva Conventions universally applicable."

      Care to spin again?

      • Oh I didn't bother to look into becuase it's irrelevant we didn't declare War on afghanistan and as part of ISAF we are fighting a counter-insurgency which our gov't does not recognize the conventions as applying to so why bother .. case closed .. Next topic.

        • …we didn't declare War on afghanistan and as part of ISAF we are fighting a counter-insurgency…

          Damn straight! As long as you didn't formally declare war on your foe (or if they declared war on you), you're pretty much free to treat their prisoners like animals.

        • we are fighting a counter-insurgency

          No we aren't. We're fighting in a civil war; one that's been going on for quite some time. And just like they did when we fought in the Korean civil war, the Geneva conventions apply in this one as well.

  3. Disappointing stance by Aglukkaq. She's a bit out of her depth, I think.

    • I totally agree, she needs to take some lessons on humanity….

  4. A bit?

  5. Perhaps Ms. Aglukkaq believes viruses like H1N1 can't penetrate body armour?

  6. I confess some confusion.

    It's quite simple, Aaron. You can redact the disparate elements of this situation into any number of straightforward assertions of fact. For instance, you can state that the military wishes to implement a perfectly reasonable policy and that the government is, once again, failing to support the troops. Alternatively, you can state that our military leadership is composed of honourable men and women who insist on conducting their operations according to Canadian values of integrity, justice and compassion whilst our government is led by a petty, vindictive, dishonourable hack who could not detect a Canadian value if, incarnated as a softball-sized burr, it wedged itself deep inside the cavernous space between his buttocks.

    It's really your call.

        • Busy. Stuffing dead squirrels with sawdust and that sort of thing.

  7. There is going to be an abundance of vaccine by the end of the year. The detainees will be vaccinated.

    It does not violate the Geneva Convetions to allocate vaccine when it is in limited supply to high priority/risk groups first.. Being an Afghan detainee does not put one into a high priority group. There is no medical reason to put them at the front of the line. The line should and hopefully will be determined by medical priority.

    There is going to be enough vaccine for everyone. They are going to be vaccinated eventually.

    Much ado about nothing.

    • Which, to summarize for those that won't read it, is that the Canadian Forces are applying Article 3/Geneva rules to all prisoners detained and this is why the Canadian Charter Of Freedoms need not be applied as the detainees are being processed under international law (and Afghan Law once handed over if I'm reading this correctly).

      Or, at least this is what the DoD and Attorney General's office seem to believe is Governmental policy. What do they know?

  8. I think Aglukkaq better review the decision awfully quick. If it becomes widely known that Afghan prisoners are getting prompter service than Canadians, I doubt the public is going to say 'that's perfectly understandable, we have to fulfill our Geneva Convention obligations'.

    • If it becomes widely known that Afghan prisoners are getting prompter service than Canadians, I doubt the public is going to say 'that's perfectly understandable…".

      That's so true. The government incompetence that manufactured an unnecessary vaccine shortage will undoubtedly help many Canadians entertain the jaundiced view of our treaty obligations so flagrantly espoused by the Harperoids. That shall be a shame, but, luckily, it shall also provide yet another moral failure for Con-bots to drink like a cheap cocktail. Whenever they tempt Canadians to respond to base instinct, it's Happy Hour at CPC HQ.

  9. "Art 4. A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention… fulfil the following conditions:
    (a) that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    (b) that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    (c) that of carrying arms openly;
    (d) that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war."

    These guys disguise themselves as civilians rather than using a "distinctive sign recognizable at a distance", they carry their arms in secret, and they target both civilians and prisoners using tactics such as marketplace bombings and beheadings-on-film.

    These guys aren't Prisoners of War under the Convention, folks.

    • Common Article 3 covers non-state actors, such as insurgent forces, and specifically addresses medical care. They are called the Geneva Conventions (emphasis on the plural), because there are more than one … to deal with more than one type of situation. Even Bush (eventually) acknowledged the article applied to terrorist detainees.


      Regardless, the commanders in the field make the call and their call has been to err on the side of compliance and inoculate prisoners.

      And good on the Canadian Forces for taking the high road in a very low situation.

      • Article 3 refers to those "members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause". Clearly that does not apply to insurgents disguising themselves as civilians.

        I agree that it is good the Canadian Forces is taking the high road while that is practical. Insofar as not shooting these murderers goes, that's fine. Insofar as giving them a vaccination that many vulnerable Canadians are waiting in line for, that's not fine.

    • The Viet Cong did the same but the Geneva conventions applied to them. Aside from that, what kind of mentally defective person argues against applying the Geneva conventions to enemies we're fighting on the basis of a minor technicality.

      • Indeed. Recall that, prior to invasion, the US dropped off new uniforms for the Northern Alliance (United Front) so the Uzbek and Tajik warlords, gun-runners, mujahaddin and insurgents would be covered by Article 4 (snazzy camo jammies = fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance). Absence of such jammies meant you were an "unlawful combatant" and could be detained without review and tortured.

    • These guys disguise themselves as civilians rather than using a "distinctive sign recognizable at a distance"…

      As do many of the "good guys"– such as American NSA operatives, special forces units like the Navy SEALs and Delta Force, and Pentagon-funded private "contractors" (i.e. Blackwater-type mercenaries).

      • Yes, and they go in with the understanding that if caught they'll either be summarily executed or tortured for a while and slowly executed. They are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, and they don't expect to be.

        • They are not protected by the Geneva Conventions, and they don't expect to be.

          Oh, I think the Blackwater guys whose charred remains were dragged though Baghdad expected to be protected by the Geneva Convention. I think the White House expected them to be so protected as well.

          There is absolutely no reason to treat them on a par with our military.

          There's absolutely no reason why our military should be arbitrating someone else's civil war at all. Given that we are, though, we need to treat captured enemy like the soldiers they obviously are. The murderous Waffen SS weren't exactly a bunch of nice, latté-sipping chaps, but the Canadian Army treated them according to civilised protocols. That's what being better than the people we're fighting is all about. If you would prefer to kill everybody on two legs, go join Mullah Omar.

          • It never ceases to amaze me how many otherwise reasonable folks are willing to throw away principles and values our ancestors have fought and died for. I’ve tried this arguement any number of times, mostly without luck. Our laws and high standards are there to protect ourselves as much as anything else. If we can’t be consistent on say the issue of human rights with those who oppose us, then how can we hope to do so at home? To my mind it’s pretty much the same as the principle of innocent unitl proven guilty and a right to a fair trail befor your peers – i want it for my enemy, because i expect it for myself. It’s called justice. But that’s not an arguement for coddling your enemy – i don’t care what their standards are – i do care about ours! What are we in Afganistan for again?

          • No one here is advocating that we execute captured Taliban fighters, including me.

            What is being argued is that they do not deserve to be given a vaccine that many vulnerable Canadians are waiting in line for. The only counter-argument so far is that the Geneva Conventions require it, but they clearly don't for fighters of the Taliban's ilk.

            Either answer the argument or admit your error, but don't try to distort the argument.

          • Again, Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions suggests otherwise.

          • Again, as pointed out the first time, not it does not.

          • Your interpretation is just that. Commanders in the field, military lawyers and political leaders disagree. Captured in combat is captured in combat. Regardless of which Article of the Conventions POWs, detainees or civilians fall under, they are treated in accordance with the GC's provisions.

          • What is being argued is that they do not deserve to be given a vaccine that many vulnerable Canadians are waiting in line for.

            Ain't you heard the news? There's plenty of vaccine around, it's just not being handed out efficiently by the provinces. Since the federal government is prosecuting the war in Afghanistan, they're just using some of their federal supply to innoculate POW's.

            Let's just say that the CF take the rules of war very seriously, whether the Geneva Conventions apply or not. Let's just say they're not looking for loopholes that will leave prisoners taken by Canadian forces unvaccinated. Because our Army is not motivated by petty spite.

  10. Obviously, the sentence in that statement that referring to the Geneva conventions was completely unrelated to the rest of the statement. Just because that one sentence is physically located next to the other sentences, all you peaceniks go assuming the conventions apply to the mission that is the subject of the rest of the statement. Fools!

  11. Doesn't this just make sense for the medical officers to be able to spend their time treating sick and wounded Canadian soldiers without having to deal with a flu pandemic sweeping through prisoners?

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