Prisoners of War, Treatment of

Prisoners of war (POWs) are as old as war itself. Since the emergence of armed conflict, certain individuals, whether combatant or noncombatant, fell at the mercy of their enemies and were held for some time in custody. Regardless of their inspiration, whether religious, economic, racist, moral, or otherwise, belligerents have always waged wars according to certain practices and norms. Accordingly, the treatment of POWs throughout history followed sets of norms and practices that included, among other things, killing surrendered enemy soldiers, enslavement, incarceration, release on parole, and unconditional release. These practices continued in different guises after the formalization of the laws of war in the 19th and 20th centuries and can even be observed today.

However, it was the emergence of the European state system, with ...

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