The U.S. State Department declined to say Wednesday whether Iran violated the Geneva Convention by putting captured U.S. Navy sailors on television Tuesday after their two boats were seized in what Iran claims was its territorial waters.
— Abas Aslani (@abasinfo) January 13, 2016
The sailors–nine men and one woman–were shown sitting on the floor, with the woman wearing a hijab, or head covering, in deference to Islamic law. One sailor, allegedly the “commander” of the group, was interviewed on television apologizing for his “mistake.”
State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner declined to answer at a Wednesday briefing whether Iran had violated the Geneva Convention, saying the videos might not be authentic. Matt Lee of the Associated Press challenged his claims that the sailors had not been mistreated if their rights under the Convention may have been violated.
Parading captives on television is a violation of the Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war, as is forcing female captives to dress differently from their male counterparts, regardless of captors’ religious beliefs:
Art 13. Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.
Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.
Art 14. Prisoners of war are entitled in all circumstances to respect for their persons and their honour.
Women shall be treated with all the regard due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit by treatment as favourable as that granted to men.
Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture. The Detaining Power may not restrict the exercise, either within or without its own territory, of the rights such capacity confers except in so far as the captivity requires.
In 2003, the administration of President George W. Bush complained when Iraq showed American prisoners of war on television, calling it “disgusting.” Congress reacted angrily, passing a unanimous resolution demanding that Iraq abide by the laws of war. Yet neither the Obama administration nor Congress has reacted to Iran’s actions Tuesday.
While it might be argued that the U.S. and Iran are not officially at war, the Geneva Convention applies regardless, and he seizure of the two boats was a hostile act, contrary to initial White House claims.
The Obama administration has stipulated that the sailors drifted into Iranian waters, but U.S. Navy sources told Breitbart News that “There was no drifting.” The boats that were seized are typically used in rivers and near the coastline, not on the open water.
In addition, military regulations prohibit U.S. personnel from participating in such interviews while imprisoned.