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Prisoners of war in the Russian invasion of Ukraine must have their rights respected under the Third Geneva Convention, Amnesty International said on 7 March.

A protest took place in front of the Russian Embassy in Bangkok on Friday (25 February 2022) to protest Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, after Russian forces entered Ukraine on Thursday (24 February 2022), targeting Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital, and other major cities.Photo by Chanakarn Laosarakham/iLaw

In recent days, the Ukrainian authorities have brought Russian prisoners of war to press conferences to discuss their roles in the military invasion, and videos on social media have also shown captured soldiers contacting family members in Russia.

Videos of captured Ukrainian soldiers have also appeared on social media, though it is not yet clear if these have official sanction.

“As the conflict continues, it is essential that all parties to the conflict fully respect the rights of prisoners of war,” said Joanne Mariner, Director of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Programme.

As the conflict continues, it is essential that all parties to the conflict fully respect the rights of prisoners of war.

Joanne Mariner, Director of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Programme

“Any public appearances can put prisoners of war at risk when they are returned to their home country, and also prove problematic for their families whilst they are detained.

“Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention explicitly states that prisoners of war must be protected at all times, particularly from public curiosity. It is duty of the detaining power to ensure these prisoners’ rights are properly respected from the moment they are captured.”

The Geneva Convention

Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention states: “Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention.

In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest. Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”

The authoritative commentary by the International Committee of the Red Cross specifies that “any materials that enable individual prisoners to be identified must normally be regarded as subjecting them to public curiosity and, therefore, may not be transmitted, published or broadcast”.

Amnesty International has previously called for international humanitarian and human rights law to be respected as the conflict in Ukraine continues to escalate.

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