Prisoner of war

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A prisoner of war (POW) is a combatant who is imprisoned by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. To be entitled to prisoner of war status, the captured service member must have conducted operations according to the laws and customs of war: be part of a chain of command and wear a uniform and bear arms openly. Thus, francs-tireurs, terrorists, saboteurs, mercenaries and spies may be excluded.

In practice, these criteria are not always interpreted strictly. Guerrillas, for example, may not wear a uniform or carry arms openly yet are sometimed granted POW status if captured (although Additional Protocol 1 may give them POW status in some circumstances).

However, guerrillas or any other combatant may not be granted the status if they try to use both the civilian and the military status. Thus, uniforms and/or badges are important in determining prisoner of war status.

Article 4 of the Third Geneva Convention protects captured military personnel, some guerrilla fighters and certain civilians. It applies from the moment a prisoner is captured until he or she is released or repatriated. One of the main provisions of the convention makes it illegal to torture prisoners and states that a prisoner can only be required to give his or her name, date of birth, rank and service number (if applicable).

See also

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