United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Practice Relating to Rule 123. Recording and Notification of Personal Details of Persons Deprived of Their Liberty
The UK Military Manual (1958) provides:
At the beginning of hostilities, each belligerent is to set up an official information bureau for prisoners of war whom it holds …
A belligerent must inform its information bureau as soon as possible about all persons who have fallen into its power. The information bureau must be supplied with information as to transfers, releases, repatriations, escapes, admissions to hospital, and death. The bureau will then transmit all such information immediately to the Powers concerned through the intermediary of the Protecting Powers, and likewise through the Central Agency.
The UK LOAC Manual (2004) provides:
9.114. At the beginning of hostilities and in all cases of occupation, each party has a duty to establish an official information bureau for receiving and transmitting information about protected persons in its power. The party concerned must, without delay, give its bureau information about:
a. any measure which it has taken affecting any protected person who is kept in custody for more than two weeks, or who is subjected to assigned residence or interned;
b. all changes affecting such protected persons, including transfers, releases, repatriations, escapes, hospital admissions, births, and deaths; and
c. details of internees’ graves.
9.114.1. The information provided must be such as will assist in the exact identification of the protected person concerned and must include at least:
a. surname and forenames of the individual concerned as well as the father’s first name and mother’s maiden name;
b. place and date of birth;
d. last residence;
e. distinguishing characteristics;
f. date, place and nature of action taken with regard to the individual;
g. name and address of the person to be informed as next of kin;
h. individual’s present address for correspondence; and
i. in respect of those seriously ill or wounded, regular reports on their health, if possible weekly.
On prisoners of war, the manual states:
The following action is to be taken in respect of prisoners of war when first captured:
i. The identity of prisoners of war must be established and recorded.
The manual further states:
8.182. At the beginning of hostilities, and in all cases of occupation, each party is to establish an official information bureau for the prisoners of war which it holds.
8.182.1.The state concerned must:
a. Ensure that the prisoners of war information bureau has the necessary accommodation, equipment and staff to work efficiently …
b. Without delay, provide the bureau with the following information about each prisoner of war in its hands: number, rank, full names, place and date of birth, state on which he depends, first name of father, maiden name of mother, name and address of next of kin, and the address to which correspondence for the prisoner of war may be sent. Details of transfers, releases, repatriations, escapes, admissions to hospital and deaths must be provided and information about the state of health of prisoners of war who are seriously ill or wounded must be given regularly, if possible, weekly.
In 1991, in a report submitted to the UN Security Council on operations in the Gulf War, the United Kingdom stated:
The Iraqi Ambassador was asked whether the Iraqi Government was holding any British prisoners of war and reminded of Iraq’s obligations under the Third Geneva Convention to notify the names of any prisoners held … The Iraqi Ambassador gave an assurance that any British prisoners of war would be treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and their names would be given to the ICRC.
In 2003, during a debate in the House of Lords, the UK Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence, Lord Bach, replied to a question:
Lord Vivian: My Lords, can the Minister tell the House how many Iraqi prisoners of war are being detained by British forces and how long it will take to process them and to record their relevant details in accordance with the Geneva Conventions? In addition, how many British troops are required to guard and protect them and what amount of food, water and medical supplies are allocated to them in accordance with the Geneva Conventions?
Lord Bach: My Lords, as of this morning, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland forces were guarding more than 6,500 coalition prisoners. They are being held in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland divisional compound in Iraq, and UK forces are deployed to guard the prisoners of war. The numbers depend on the circumstances in force at the time. Therefore, I hope that the noble Lord will understand if I do not give more precise details.
We are processing the prisoners as fast as possible; the Red Crescent is content with the action that we are taking in that regard. Prisoners are of course being given sufficient food, water and access to the medical facilities that they require.
In 2003, in a reply to a written question in the House of Commons, the UK Minister of State for the Armed Forces, Ministry of Defence, wrote:
Upon being taken prisoner, Iraqi combatants are evacuated to a safe location, away from the dangers of combat, as soon as is practicable. They are held initially at collection points by the unit taking them prisoner, where their identity is established and recorded. They are then transferred to a more permanent holding facility.
In accordance with Article 70 of the Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, upon capture, and subsequently following any change in location, every prisoner of war is given the opportunity to write direct to his or her family, and through the completion of a Capture Card, to the Central Prisoners of War Agency in Geneva. Prisoner of war details are given to the International Committee for the Red Cross who have the responsibility for the distribution of letters, parcels and Capture Cards.
In 2010, the UK Secretary of State for Defence set out the Ministry of Defence Strategic Detention Policy, stating:
1.2 This Policy Statement, which is to be observed whenever UK Armed Forces undertake detention in an operation theatre reflects the importance which I attach to ensuring the humane treatment of those it is necessary to detain in the course of our operations.
1.3 This is essential to ensure that we uphold our international obligations, to promote the legitimacy of an operation internationally and amongst the British public and to maximise support within the country where operations take place. …
2.1 This policy applies across the MOD and the Armed Forces and to all detention activities undertaken in military theatres of operation. It sets out the minimum standards which must be applied. All members of the Armed Forces, civilian employees and others (including contractors) who are involved with operational detention must comply with it. …
3.1 I require the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces to:
e. Properly account for and keep records of all Detained Persons and their property.