The legal status of prisoners of war in Islamic law : assessment of its compatibility with the 1949 Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war
Military confrontations in many parts of the world raise concerns regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Whilst the regime of prisoners of war under international law is clearly codified in the 1949 Geneva Convention relating to the treatment of prisoners of war, questions arise, particularly from western thinkers, regarding their treatment under Islamic law. This thesis attempts to fill this gap in the literature. The legal status of prisoners of war as presented in the Quran and Sunna and interpreted by prominent Islamic scholars is analysed and compared with the Geneva Convention provision is examined.The discussion begins in Chapter One with an examination of the context in which the issue of prisoner of war status arises. The concept and legitimacy of war are discussed and the rules of war, as well as relations between Islamic and non-Islamic States areexamined. In Chapter Two, the definition of the term 'prisoners of war' in each legal system is examined, and the classes of people excluded from the definition areconsidered. Chapter Three investigates the legal status of prisoners of war from the moment of capture, with reference to the coercion of prisoners of war to reveal military secrets protection inside the camps, the labour and financial status of prisoners of war,and the right to food and clothing, to communication with the outside world, to medical attention and to freedom of religious practice. There follows in Chapter Four a discussion of the ways in which capture may be terminated.The thesis shows that Islam provides for the just and humane treatment of prisoners of war and its rules are in general consistent with the provisions of international law. There are, however, some differences, such as the Islamic provision on enslavement attributable to differences in historical context. Such discrepancies however, have either been removed by changing custom, or can be resolved by analogy and by application of the general rules of just and humane treatment. There is, therefore, no reason why an Islamic country should not conform with the generally accepted principles of international law on the treatment of prisoners of war.