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close this bookCountry Report Bosnia - Herzegovina - ICRC Worldwide Consultation on the Rules of War (International Committee of the Red Cross , 1999, 56 p.)
close this folderAttacking non-combatants
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentBlurring the line between combatants and non-combatants
View the documentPrisoners at risk
View the documentCombatants and civilians: the war on the ground

Prisoners at risk

The permissive attitude towards waging war in civilian areas, not surprisingly, carries over to the treatment of captured enemy combatants. When an emotional situation involving prisoners is described, many respondents acknowledge a willingness to see them harmed. Fully 39 per cent say they would not help a wounded enemy combatant, and 37 per cent that they would not save the life of a surrendering enemy combatant who had killed a person close to them. 13 (See Figure 6.)

13 In the parallel study, almost half - 44 per cent - say they would not help a wounded enemy combatant.

FIGURE 6. Wounded or surrendering combatants (per cent of total population responding)

It is hardly surprising that captured enemy combatants would not be treated properly in this environment. Though it is widely accepted that independent representatives must be allowed to visit prisoners (79 per cent), the same is not true for many other obligations. A majority of 63 per cent say captured enemy combatants must be allowed to contact their relatives; 56 per cent say they must not be tortured to obtain important military information. In some cases, however, up to one-third of the public refuse to accept an obligation, particularly with regard to torture to obtain important military information (29 per cent). (See Figure 7.)

FIGURE 7. Captured enemy combatants (per cent of total population responding) 14

14 Respondents were presented with a series of potential obligations regarding the treatment of prisoners. To the left is the percentage of the total population who accept a particular obligation. For example, 79 per cent say authorities must allow an independent representative to visit a captured enemy combatant. The responses to the right indicate the percentage of respondents not accepting a particular obligation.