Friday, January 13, 2006



Danish lenient on POW abuse?

A Danish Army captain and four military police have been found guilty of abusing prisoners - but the court has refused to punish them. Captain Annemette Hommel and four of her subordinates had been charged with verbally abusing prisoners, denying them food and water, and forcing them to adopt stress positions (bad habits they seem to have learned from the Americans). They were found guilty by a civilian court on the first and third charges, but no punishment was ordered due to "extenuating circumstances" - the soldiers "had not received clear guidelines from the Danish military".

My first reaction to this is outrage. The treatment they were found guilty of clearly violates the standards set by the Third Geneva Convention, which states that Prisoners of War "must at all times be humanely treated", "are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour", and that

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

And I'd expect these parts to be part of the basic training of any soldier of any nationality - both because they may one day have to handle POWs, and because they may also one day be one. While the offending is at the lower end of the scale compared to (say) what went on in Abu Ghraib, this is not something soldiers should be able to claim ignorance of, and in any case ignorance is no excuse. The soldiers should still have been punished.

Then I read the longer verison of the judge's comments in this version of the story:

“Hommel several times asked her superiors about procedures and specific guidance regarding detention and interrogation without getting any usable answers, and her superiors did not perform the necessary control that all conventions were observed,” judge Lougart said.

Under these circumstances, where there is outright confusion (and possible contradictory responses) about what is expected, some leniency towards the poor mooks caught at the bottom seems justified. However, that in turn must be matched by justice for the people actually responsible: the officers who gave those contradictory orders and who allowed this situation to occur should be being prosecuted for negligence.

2 comments:

Females abusing prisoners - it's becoming more than anecdotal isn't it? Or is it just that they are more visible being women in a previously exclusive male profession? Karpinski, Fast, England... Hommel.

Are there ant studies? The German Army has a limit on how many females can be in each unit as they say with too many women they tend to become (and I can't quite remember the words the DW narrator used) erratic or irrational, or it may have been a more polite "unpredictable." Or if it is a lone women (in command or not) perhaps they are over-compensating by being tougher (ie. illegal) in order to prove themselves and maintain their integrity with males?

Like "short man syndrome" - what are their stats in relation to prisoner abuse? Would a unit of short men commanded by a woman have the most propensity to commit war crimes?

Posted by t selwyn : 1/13/2006 04:36:00 PM

On second thoughts "any" studies would probably be more productive than just "ant" studies.

Posted by t selwyn : 1/13/2006 04:39:00 PM