Abhinandan must be treated like prisoner, not PoW, says army veteran

Chennai: The firmness with which he said, “I am not supposed to tell you this”, and the coolness with which he recognised the “nice treatment” provided to him by the Pakistani officials has made captured IAF pilot Abhinandan a national hero, thanks to a video, showing him saying these things, going viral.

With the whole country waiting for his safe return and with multiple theories doing the rounds about his release, News Today spoke to a retired Army official to know what is the way forward.

“Abhinandan can’t be considered as prisoner of war (PoW), because there is now officially no war between India and Pakistan. He is just in the custody of Pakistan. Hence, Pakistan will not declare him as PoW,” the army veteran said, adding: “What I learnt from reports was, Abhinandan chased away a Pakistani jet (when it tried to trespass into India) and entered into its territory when his aircraft was shot down. He was caught by Pakistani officials when he ejected out of the flight. He is just a prisoner, not PoW.”

He said further: “Though tension is brewing between the two countries, India has every right to ask Pakistan to release him at the earliest and I believe our country is already doing this. It seems Pakistan is not keen for war and has already claimed that it is treating Abhinandan well. Hence, I hope there will be no harm to his life. But, the developments that are going to happen in the days to come will decide his release. Till then, he should be treated like a prisoner there, but without any torture or assault.”

WHAT GENEVA RULES SAY

The rules protecting PoWs were first detailed in the 1929 Geneva Convention and later amended in the third 1949 Geneva Convention following World War II.

As per the rules, the status of PoW only applies in international armed conflict. “PoWs are usually members of the armed forces of one of the parties to a conflict who fall into the hands of the adverse party.”

The convention states that PoWs cannot be prosecuted for taking a direct part in hostilities. “Their detention is not a form of punishment, but only aims to prevent further participation in the conflict. They must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities. The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under International Humanitarian Law.”

The rules specify that PoWs must be treated humanely in all circumstances. “They are protected against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults and public curiosity.”

M Bhaskar Sai