Prisoner of war

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A prisoner of war (POW) is a person captured or interned by a belligerent power during war. In the strictest sense, it is applied only to members of regularly organized armed forces, but there are also broader definitions.

For most of human history, depending on the culture of the victors, enemy combatants on the losing side in a battle who had surrendered and been taken as prisoners of war could expect to be either killed or enslaved.

More recently, certain such prisoners have been given certain rights under international law, with this gradually extending to larger groups and to more extensive rights.

As recently as World War II, captured partisans, if unlawful combatants, could be and often were legally executed as war criminals.

Especially regarding World War II, there are numerous controversies regarding mass deaths/mass killings of legally protected prisoners of war.

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