Did Geneva Conventions made difference to treatment of POWS

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wildboar
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Did Geneva Conventions made difference to treatment of POWS

Post by wildboar » 19 Nov 2002 17:47

There were vast differences between the conditions endured by Germans captured by the Allies and the Soviets however and the main reason for this difference was the fact the Allies complied with the Geneva Convention and the Soviets did not. The Geneva Convention of 1929 was a bill of rights for every prisoner of war taken by an opposing side and should have been displayed openly in every PoW camp. The protecting Power which was a neutral government appointed by a belligerent to look after it's interests in enemy territory until the normal restoration of diplomatic relations was restored. Delegates from these countries were permitted to visit the camps and to investigate complaints. As well as these appointed delegates the International Red Cross were permitted to visit the camps and this soon became standard practice.

Article 79 of the Geneva Convention entitled the International Committee to enforce the opposing powers to set up an Central Information Agency for the reception, recording and forwarding of information and replies to enquiries about prisoners of war and this agency was set up in 1939. There were two main powers who were not bound by these terms and did not apply these regulations to their prisoner of war procedures. These powers were Japan and the Soviet Union. Japan had signed but had not ratified it so in effect was not bound by it's terms. Russia had applied the terms of the Hague Convention of 1907 (which the Geneva Convention superseded) but failed to meet any of the requirements of the Geneva Convention during W.W.II and as a result no information was released on captured German troops and camp visits were not allowed for German prisoners in Soviet captivity. Germany followed suit and no visits or information on Soviet PoWs held on German territory were allowed to be released.

Soviet Claim that it was signatory to HAGUE convention was hoax since it was already superseded by Geneva convention.How can a superseded convention be legally binding?
Did Lack of signature of Geneva Convention by Soviet Union made difference to fate of Soviet POWS ?

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Roberto
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Re: Did Geneva Conventions made difference to treatment of P

Post by Roberto » 19 Nov 2002 18:42

wildboar wrote:Soviet Claim that it was signatory to HAGUE convention was hoax since it was already superseded by Geneva convention.How can a superseded convention be legally binding?
Whence does Wildboar get the idea that the Geneva Convention supersedes the Hague Rules of Land Warfare?

Article 89 of the Convention Between the United States of America and Other Powers, Relating to Prisoners of War of 29 July 1929 reads as follows:
In the relations between Powers bound by the Hague Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, whether it is a question of that of July 29, 1899, or that of October 18, 1907, and who participate in the present Convention, this latter shall complete Chapter 11 of the Regulations annexed to the said Hague Conventions.
Source of quote:

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/lawofwar/geneva02.htm

This means that the Geneva Convention does not replace the Hague Rules of Land Warfare, but constitutes a complement thereto.
wildboar wrote:Did Lack of signature of Geneva Convention by Soviet Union made difference to fate of Soviet POWS ?
Well, it shouldn't have, as both the Hague Rules of Land Warfare and the Geneva Convention had become international customary law by the end of the 1930s, according to contemporary prevailing legal opinion.
Alfred Streim (International Law and Soviet Prisoners of War) wrote: [...]
2. Application of International Customary Law during Operation ‘Barbarossa’

The ‘conventionless’ war would not have been unlawful had the OKW directive of 16 June 1941 been adhered to, especially considering that it linked together Service Regulations, based on the Geneva Convention, and individual directives. However, in order to achieve his political aim, the annihilation of the ‘Judeo-Bolshevist system’, Hitler was unwilling to apply the existing rules protecting prisoners to captured Red Army soldiers. As early as 30 March 1941, the day he announced that the Russian campaign was to begin, Hitler had told his generals in no uncertain terms that Operation ‘Barbarossa’ was to be a war of annihilation, in which the usual soldierly comradeship was not to apply.[emphasis mine]
To justify this in legal terms he referred to the Soviet Union’s non-accession to the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, while he did not consider himself bound by the HRLW because the USSR had renounced all treaties signed by Tsarist Russia. He did not change his opinion, even when the Soviet Union informed the Reich, using a verbal note via Sweden among other methods, that she was prepared to keep to the regulations in the HRLW as long as Germany did so.[emphasis mine] She said the same in a note sent to the Japanese embassy in Moscow dated 8 August 1941.
In its reply Hitler merely had the Foreign Office express ‘its extreme astonishment that the Soviet government, in spite of the behavior of its troops towards captured German soldiers up to now, still feels it is justified in speaking of applying international rules in the treatment of prisoners of war and at the same time raising the question of reciprocity in this regard’. The Foreign Office, in its files, noted that the Soviet offer could not be viewed as an application for accession as envisaged by the fundamental agreement of the HRLW. In any case, the note continued, any Soviet signing of this agreement would have to be seen as meaningless in the case of a German-Soviet war (in view of the ‘escape clause’) simply because allies of the Reich had not signed the convention.
From a formal point of view there was no objection to this line of reasoning. The USSR had always maintained that the 1917 Revolution had completely wiped out all the economic, social and political relations of the former government. Therefore, owing to the legal consequences of the clausula rebus sic stantibus (“null and void owing to changing circumstances”), which is also binding in international law, any obligations to international governments from the Tsarist era were as a rule to be seen as null and void. If a treaty did not come under the clausula and was seen as still binding, it was expressly mentioned if it was relevant to the USSR, a process which actually took place from time to time.
The Soviet offer to the German Reich to keep the HRLW on a mutual basis was also legally worthless, since the convention cannot be recognized by means of a treaty between parties to a conflict, but rather by means of an application under Art. 6 of the Hague Fundamental Agreement. This involves an official note to the government of the Netherlands together with the handing over of the certificate of accession. The question of whether the USSR’s note of 17 July 1941 can be considered an offer of a bilateral treaty based on the HRLW is a matter of conjecture, since Hitler rejected the offer, as we can see from the wording of the Foreign Office’s answer to the USSR.
The Foreign/Defense Department (Amt Ausland/Abwehr) of the OKW under Admiral Canaris said much the same in a memorandum of 15 September 1941, in reply to regulations issued by the OKW/AWA in a directive of 8 September 1941. This directive replaced that issued on 16 June 1941 concerning the analogous application of the Geneva Convention, and the new regulations for the treatment of Soviet prisoners of war in all German POW camps were mostly at odds with the rules of humanity in wartime. At the same time the memorandum clearly pointed out that the basic international principles (of war) concerning the treatment of prisoners were applied in the conventionless war. This was not affected by the escape clause in the Hague convention because the rules contained in this agreement had been accepted as customary law in the meantime. In this regard the memorandum referred to an enclosed Soviet directive on the treatment of POWs dated 1 July 1941, which largely corresponded with the fundamental principles of international law.
The ideas expressed by the Amt Ausland/Abwehr in its memorandum on the validity of customary law in the field of the law of war were nothing new; this was the opinion prevailing at the time. The source of jus in bello, the law of warfare, is not just limited to the above positivist rulings. The source can be extended to unwritten customary law, as was emphasized after the was in the War Crimes Trial and the subsequent trials conducted by the United States in Nuremberg.
The Amt Ausland/Abwehr’s memorandum had no effect. The Chef OKW, Keitel, rejected it, noting that: ‘These reservations correspond to the soldierly views of chivalrous warfare; this war is about the annihilation of a Weltanschauung, and therefore I approve of and vouch for the measures. Keitel had been swayed by Hitler’s opinion concerning the nature of war with the Soviet Union, and had thus squashed the plans of the AWA, his department responsible for prisoners of war, to treat captured Russians according to customary law analogous to the Geneva Convention.
[emphasis mine]
Even if after all this it was obvious that Hitler was not willing to abide by either codified of customary law of war in the Russian campaign, this fact is nonetheless questioned from time to time, some even maintaining that the opposite was true. For example, regarding Hitler’s rejection (via the Reich) of the USSR’s offer to abide by the HRLW under certain conditions, we can read that, in the opinion of some, he (or the Reich government) did not take up the offer only because this would have been a mere formality – the basic ideas of the agreement were binding upon the conflict parties owing to existing international (customary) law.
Seen in an abstract way, this view seems logical. Applied to this particular case, however, it is wrong, since if fails to consider Hitler’s opinion of the nature of the German-Soviet war and the influence this had on his view of the non-application of the law of war. He saw in the struggle with the USSR a new kind of war, a line which is still taken today by defense counsel, in Nazi trials, to justify the barbaric methods used to treat Russian prisoners and the Soviet population as a whole. According to Hitler, the war with the USSR was the collision of two fundamental world-views, in which the doctrine of the law of war was based solely upon Nazi ideology, with the aim of totally wiping out the ‘Judeo-Bolshevist system’. This ideological definition of war meant that nothing was unlawful that served the execution, security, and consolidation of National Socialism, the preservation of the Nazi state and its people. Hitler considered international law to be old-fashioned, still based upon the ideal of ‘chivalrous war’, as Keitel puts it in his statement on the Amt Ausland/Abwehr memorandum. It was an obstacle in the Nazi world-view’s path. Since for Hitler, as in the Third Reich as a whole, the law was merely a part of his world-view, law of war had no place in the total ideological struggle.[emphasis mine]
It goes without saying that this view is totally contrary to the rule of law. It fails to recognize what the law of war is and what its aims are, and is outside the system of law as we know it. If it was left up to one side in a conflict to decide whether the international law of war is to be applied or not, then that would be the end of the rules of warfare. This is especially true when one party (such as Nazi Germany) claims in a pseudo-scientific manner, with the aid of her ideology, to be always ‘right’.[...]
In short, what made a difference to Soviet prisoners of war was not the Soviet government's failure to ratify the Geneva Convention, but the Nazi government's unwillingness to abide by the rules of warfare that, notwithstanding the missing ratification of the Geneva Convention by the Soviet Union, would have had to be applied by force of international customary law.

As to the consequences of Hitler's insistence in waging a conventionless war without regard for any rules of warfare,
Alfred Streim (as above) wrote:[...]The few existing fundamental orders that demanded humane behavior toward POWs were often no longer respected, such as the guiding principle of the ‘Regulations’ of 8 September 1941: ‘Treatment [of prisoners] must be (cold but) fair.’ This was no surprise, if we take into account the fact that this principle was undermined again and again by counter-regulations such as the orders for the use of arms.
Courts martial did nothing when they could have stopped the unlawful behavior towards POWs. When a trial did take place on account of a violation of the law of war, the verdict was ineffective because there was no confirmation on the part of the supreme authority (i.e. Hitler). Thus, for example, a field court martial had sentenced a battalion commander to demotion and imprisonment for killing POWs without cause immediately following capture. But Hitler, as supreme legal authority, quashed the verdict only a few weeks afterwards, stating that ‘we cannot blame lively spirits when they, convinced as they are that the German people are engaged in a unique battle of life and death, reject the Bolshevist world-enemy beyond all commandments of humanity’.
Up to the end of 1941, the few still-valid, half-humane Wehrmacht rules governing the treatment of Soviet POWs were either revised or replaced by others not in keeping with the spirit of the HRLW and the Geneva Convention. These were lacking even the least preconditions for humanity. In the meantime hundreds of thousands of prisoners had met their deaths owing to lack of food and inhumane treatment, while tens of thousands had been murdered because of ‘political intolerability’.
When, from February 1942 onwards, the prisoners were urgently needed for forced labor in munitions factories and on farms, most of those still alive could not be employed as a result of illness or weakness. The pressure of the need for forced labor now led to slow improvement in their living conditions, but these never reached a humane standard. Out of well over five million Soviet soldiers in German captivity, only around 932,000 were still alive in the Stalags (base camps for laborers). [Footnote: Not all of those Soviet POWs who made up the difference died; we must subtract those who were released from captivity, escapees, collaborators, and those who defected to the Wlassow Armee. Nonetheless, the number of those who died (or who were murdered) is extremely high. Cf. The statement on the victims in Streim, Die Behandlung, as in note 11, p. 224 ff.] Their physical condition can be gauged from the number of those actually employed, at that time only 42,426 men.
Alfred Streim is a jurist who, as Senior State Attorney, headed the Central Office (Zentrale Stelle) for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes in Ludwigsburg, Germany. He is also the author of Die Behandlung sowjetischer Kriegsgefangener im "Fall Barbarossa": Eine Dokumentation. Heidelberg and Karlsruhe: C. F. Müller Juristischer Verlag, 1981, one of the standard works on the issue.

Wolffen
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Post by Wolffen » 19 Nov 2002 22:57

Nop!

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witness
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Post by witness » 19 Nov 2002 23:07

Plop !

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Post by cybercat » 28 Nov 2002 02:39

I don't believe in the Geneva Convention it's a bag of shite.

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Post by Scott Smith » 28 Nov 2002 03:26

I think the conventions help set standards of conduct that minimize avoidable suffering, but in the end it all depends on whether the Victors choose to follow those standards; and as far as the losers, they may follow them or not as they can/will be guilty either way.
:)
Last edited by Scott Smith on 28 Nov 2002 05:12, edited 1 time in total.

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Mike K.
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Post by Mike K. » 28 Nov 2002 04:28

Humane conduct has strategic benefits, as subjugated people are more likely to collaborate than resist if they aren't being alienated and brutalized.

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Post by Scott Smith » 28 Nov 2002 05:13

nuplicid wrote:Humane conduct has strategic benefits, as subjugated people are more likely to collaborate than resist if they aren't being alienated and brutalized.
That's true. It is always better to employ the carrot than the stick (as long as there are plenty of carrots to go around).
:)

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Post by cybercat » 28 Nov 2002 06:07

I despise the Geneva Convention because good treatment of prisoners of war is a matter of good manners and personal honour with me rather than something enforced by some speccy little bureaucrat behind a desk in Switzerland.

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Roberto
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Post by Roberto » 28 Nov 2002 10:08

cybercat wrote:I despise the Geneva Convention because good treatment of prisoners of war is a matter of good manners and personal honour with me rather than something enforced by some speccy little bureaucrat behind a desk in Switzerland.
Well, it's more than just good manners and personal honor.

It's international law, codified or customary.

The difference towards good manners and personal honor being that breaches can be criminally sanctioned, the physical means to enforce international law provided.

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Roberto
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Post by Roberto » 28 Nov 2002 10:11

Scott Smith wrote:I think the conventions help set standards of conduct that minimize avoidable suffering, but in the end it all depends on whether the Victors choose to follow those standards;
Yeah, when the "victors" of the moment are not willing to abide by any standards codified or customary, the result is the situation described in my post of Tue Nov 19, 2002 6:42 pm on this thread.

Which they are nowadays likely to be held accountable for once they cease to be victors, like a common criminal is held accountable for his crimes once he has been apprehended.
and as far as the losers, they may follow them or not as they can/will be guilty either way.
:)
Any examples of "losers" being pronounced guilty on account of behavior that complied with codified or customary international law?

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Scott Smith
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Post by Scott Smith » 28 Nov 2002 10:34

Roberto wrote:Any examples of "losers" being pronounced guilty on account of behavior that complied with codified or customary international law?
Clause 231 of the Versailles Treaty, of course.
:)
Last edited by Scott Smith on 28 Nov 2002 11:11, edited 1 time in total.

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Roberto
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Post by Roberto » 28 Nov 2002 10:54

Scott Smith wrote:
Roberto wrote:Any examples of "losers" being pronounced guilty on account of behavior that complied with codified or customary international law?
Clause 21 of the Versailles Treaty, of course.
:)
Care to show our esteemed audience the wording of that provision, so they don't have to go searching the web?

If it's a provision whereby Germany acknowledged guilt for the war, it was nonsense indeed at a time when international law still acknowledged the ius ad bellum, the right of sovereigns to wage war (which was the reason why the Netherlands refused to extradite the exiled German emperor Willhelm II without even veryfing his contribution to the starting of World War I).

This situation began to change soon after the First World War, however, when steps towards outlawing war were taken because governments had realized that, apart from being unnecessary, a war waged with the means of modern technology was too devastating for war to be upheld as an ultima ratio of politics.

The first step in this direction was the Covenant of the League of Nations,
which contained a partial prohibition to use war as an instrument of politics. The text of this covenant can be read under

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/imt/parti.htm

A further step was the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, the material provisions of which:
ARTICLE I
The High Contracting Parties solemly declare in the names of their respective peoples that they condemn recourse to war for the solution of international controversies, and renounce it, as an instrument of national policy in their relations with one another.

ARTICLE II
The High Contracting Parties agree that the settlement or solution of all disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin they may be, which may arise among them, shall never be sought except by pacific means.
contain an unequivocal waiver and condemnation of war as an instrument of politics, thus making what used to be "the continuation of politics by other means" a breach of international law.

The full text of this pact can be read under

http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/kbpact/kbpact.htm

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Scott Smith
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Post by Scott Smith » 28 Nov 2002 11:11

Roberto wrote:
Scott Smith wrote:
Roberto wrote:Any examples of "losers" being pronounced guilty on account of behavior that complied with codified or customary international law?
Clause 21 of the Versailles Treaty, of course.
:)
Care to show our esteemed audience the wording of that provision, so they don't have to go searching the web?
Oops, typo. It is 231. I can't be subtle when I make a mistake!
:oops:
The Treaty of Versailles wrote: ARTICLE 231.

The Allied and Associated Governments affirm and Germany accepts the responsibility of Germany and her allies for causing all the loss and damage to which the Allied and Associated Governments and their nationals have been subjected as a consequence of the war imposed upon them by the aggression of Germany and her allies.
Good night, Roberto, it is way past my bedtime.
:)

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Post by Mike K. » 28 Nov 2002 11:13

Roberto wrote:Any examples of "losers" being pronounced guilty on account of behavior that complied with codified or customary international law?
Erich Hartmann (Germany's top fighter ace) was tried by the Soviet Union for war crimes, simply for inflicting so many kills.

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