Use of prisoners of war as hostages

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kgbudge
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Use of prisoners of war as hostages

Post by kgbudge » 11 Dec 2011 07:21

A question for the legal experts here. When Wainright tried to surrender only the Corregidor garrison, claiming that MacArthur still had command authority over the Allied troops in Mindanao and the Visayas, Homma threated to resume hostilities against the now-disarmed Allied troops on Corregidor, e.g., massacre them, if the other Allied troops did not surrender. Assuming Homma was correct in claiming that Wainright's communications with Washington showed he was in fact commander of all Allied troops in the Philippines, would Homma's threat still violate the laws and customs of war ?

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kgbudge
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Re: Use of prisoners of war as hostages

Post by kgbudge » 24 Dec 2011 00:30

Let me try again. I am aware that, under the laws and customs of war of 1942, hostages could be taken and shot under very restricted circumstances. Is there any plausible argument at all to be made that Homma was within the law with his threat to massacre the Corregidor garrison if Sharp et al. didn't surrender?

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Re: Use of prisoners of war as hostages

Post by David Thompson » 24 Dec 2011 01:33

kgbudge -- You asked:
Is there any plausible argument at all to be made that Homma was within the law with his threat to massacre the Corregidor garrison if Sharp et al. didn't surrender?
If Gen. Homma had carried out the threat, it would have been a war crime. Japan had signed and ratified the 1907 Hague Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex
http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/Pays?ReadForm&c=JP
http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebSign?Rea ... d=195&ps=P

Annex article 23(c) forbids a refusal of quarter to surrendering soldiers. The 1929 Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Art. 2, forbids reprisals against prisoners of war. Japan signed, but did not ratify that convention:

1929 Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/WebSign?Rea ... d=305&ps=S
http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/Pays?ReadForm&c=JP

Nevertheless, upon inquiry by the United States via the Swiss government, on February 4, 1942 Japan agreed to observe the terms of the 1929 Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. You can see the the diplomatic exchange at Foreign Relations of the United States, 1942, vol. 1, pp. 792-857, with the Japanese note described at p. 796.
http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bi ... RUS1942v01

The US armed forces in the Philippines surrendered on April 9, 1942.

As to whether or not the threat alone was a war crime, I haven't ever seen anything on that issue.

JamesL
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Re: Use of prisoners of war as hostages

Post by JamesL » 24 Dec 2011 03:09

"Is there any plausible argument at all to be made that Homma was within the law with his threat..."

The question can be split into two parts.
1. there is a threat to use violence
2. there is the actual use of violence.

I think the THREAT by itself was legal. It was a form of psychological warfare used to gain compliance. The threat instilled fear which may have been overwhelming to the American general.

That said, Corregidor surrendered on May 6. Homma's courts martial verdict was 'not guilty' when it came to the 'additional charge' of refusal to grant quarter on May 6. Homma did not carry out Part 2 of the question in this particular case.

A video of Homma's verdict can be found at this link.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sI8jtxXxOUI

So, in summary. Is it legal to scare your opponent? Yes.

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Re: Use of prisoners of war as hostages

Post by kgbudge » 24 Dec 2011 06:56

JamesL, I was wondering whether actual reprisals might possibly have been legal, but I'm glad you pointed out the distinction, which I fail to make in my own notes. Dave, you gave me exactly the kind of answer and source material I wanted. Thanks very much.

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