The Long-Term Implications of Prisoner Exchanges

[Institute for Contemporary Affairs/Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs] Justus Reid Weiner and Diane Morrison - Prisoner exchange is governed by international humanitarian law as detailed in the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions (1949). At the end of a conflict the states implement an exchange of captured soldiers. In the interim, the captured soldiers are entitled to the status of Prisoners of War, who must be provided with adequate facilities and care as well as communication with the outside world. Israel's enemies, using proxy guerilla organizations such as the Iranian-proxy group Hizbullah, operate outside the legal framework of the laws of war - routinely committing war crimes such as indiscriminate attacks (the deliberate targeting of civilians as such) and perfidy (disguising combatants as protected individuals such as civilians). The organizations' fighters are unlawful combatants who are not entitled to the protected status of POWs, and are subject to prosecution as war criminals. By exchanging prisoners with the proxy organizations as if they were law-abiding states, Israel can be seen as upgrading the status of the organizations' unlawful combatants. Such exchanges afford them the same rights as lawful soldiers, without demanding from their leaders the reciprocal obligations. At the same time, Israel downgrades the rights of its own captured soldiers by overlooking the organizations' systematic depravation of POW rights for Israeli soldiers under the Geneva Conventions.

2008-07-15 01:00:00

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