Russia/Ukraine: Prisoners of war must be protected from public curiosity under Geneva Convention

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

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.

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”.