Prisoners of War

Article excerpt


Without minimizing the trauma James H. Warner experienced during his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, his Op-Ed column overlooks an essential issue regarding the rights of those held in Guantanamo Bay ("For 5 months 'I stayed in the box,' " Wednesday).

While a member of the Marine Corps, Mr. Warner was participating in a war between two sovereign nations - and as defined by international law, he gained combatant status.

When taken captive, he was therefore given prisoner-of-war status and should have been guaranteed the basic rights granted to prisoners of war. Although the torture he suffered while in captivity violated those rights, Mr. Warner knew when making a commitment to serve his country as a member of the armed forces that the possibility for capture and torture existed, and he accepted this possibility.

Those held at Guantanamo Bay are not considered prisoners of war by the standards of international law, lacking the requisite engagement between two sovereign nations, clearly defined chain of command and clear distinction from the civilian population.

Regardless of the fact that these individuals may be enemies of the United States, they are being held without charge and without access to a lawyer - rights to which they are entitled when lacking this status. This is an infringement on the basic rights of these persons.

Although what occurs at Guantanamo Bay is not as violent as what Mr. Warner suffered, without the basic rights guaranteed to persons deemed noncombatants, the impact of any humiliation, degradation or suffering they incur during their indefinite detention is intensified. …