Practice Relating to Rule 87. Humane Treatment
Section D. Persons deprived of their liberty
The Military Manual (1993) of the Netherlands provides: “Prisoners of war must at all times be treated humanely.”
The Military Handbook (1995) of the Netherlands states that POWs “have the right to humane treatment. They cannot be exposed to acts of violence, insults and public curiosity.”
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states:
The purpose of holding prisoners of war is to prevent combatants from resuming their role in hostilities. Thus, being a prisoner of war is not a punishment. Prisoners of war must be humanely treated at all times. Humane treatment relates to the attitude to be taken to prisoners of war during their captivity. That is the core of the protection of prisoners of war. In particular, it is prohibited to subject them to medical or scientific experiments. Likewise prisoners of war must be protected against acts of violence, primarily physical violence. Terrorization, that is, intimidation, is also prohibited. Finally, prisoners of war must be protected against public curiosity, i.e. also against the news media (photographs, radio and television). Prisoners of war must not be recognizable.
During the Gulf War of 1990–91, prisoners of war were recognizably portrayed in TV documentaries, in breach of the Geneva Conventions. In one instance, Iraqis taken as prisoners of war were actually made to speak. In 2002, Taliban fighters taken prisoner by the Afghan Northern Alliance were interviewed, in TV documentaries, about the conditions in which they were being held.
If a prisoner of war is not properly treated, the captive may claim payment of compensation from the detaining power. In addition, the persons responsible for improper treatment of prisoners of war, or for permitting such treatment, may be prosecuted as war criminals.
The manual further states:
Prisoners of war are entitled to respect for their persons and their honour … [I]t is forbidden to disclose strictly personal particulars. One facet of this is permission to wear distinctive emblems of nationality and rank, also decorations. Prisoners of war must be protected from insults, and may not be taunted; their good name or honour must not be impugned.
The manual also provides:
If no means of transport are available, the prisoners of war may also be evacuated on foot. A trained military prisoner of war, in moderate climate conditions, must be deemed fit to move a maximum of 40 km per day in such cases. If the prisoners of war are already suffering from battle fatigue, they may cover only 20 km per day on foot. In severe weather or inhospitable terrain, progress will be slow. “Death marches” are prohibited.
In addition, the manual provides:
The transfer of prisoners of war may not take place in conditions less favourable than those in which the forces of the detaining power are transferred. Sufficient food and drinking water must be provided during the move. Sick and wounded prisoners of war may not, in principle, be transferred.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states:
Servants of the State who use violence or kill a dissident or a civilian must also have grounds in law for their actions, failing which they may be prosecuted. Members of dissident forces, militias and other armed groups who are captured have no right to prisoner-of-war status. Servants of the State, including members of the military, who are captured by a dissident movement, also have no right to prisoner-of-war status. In both cases, prisoners should be treated humanely and receive medical care if necessary.
In addition, the manual provides:
In internal armed conflicts in which members of the Dutch armed forces are involved all captured members of the military, and all captured members of dissident militias and other armed groups should be treated in the same way as prisoners of war. Any further legal steps to be taken against individual members of such movements may be taken only as instructed by competent courts or other authorized bodies or authorities.
In its chapter on peace operations, the manual states: “Every detainee should be treated with human dignity.”
In 2007, in reply to a question concerning guidelines on the treatment of detainees, the Minister of Defence of the Netherlands stated: “At all times detainees need to be treated humanely. The Department of Defence attaches great importance to legal and ethical conduct by the Dutch armed forces.”