Journal Article


Tom Clonan


Journalism & Mass Media

geneva conventions abu ghraib iraqi war crimes abuse journalism studies iraq communication prisoners

Images of US Troops Abusing Iraqis Constitute War Crimes (2004)

Abstract Article three of the Geneva Convention in relation to the treatment of Prisoners of War is explicit and unequivocal. It prohibits ‘violence to life, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture’. It also outlaws ‘outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment’. Accordingly, photographs of bound and hooded Iraqi prisoners, recently published by the print and electronic media, if genuine, represent crime scenes. Article four of the Geneva Convention defines in detail those categories of individuals who qualify as Prisoners of War including ‘members of armed forces’, ‘members of organised resistance groups’ and ‘members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognised by the Detaining Power’. Many Iraqis detained in Abu Ghraib Prison would be categorised as such and would be protected by the Geneva Convention. Article Four of the Geneva Convention goes on to state that civilian detainees who fall outside these categories and who are interned by the Detaining Power are entitled to ‘humane treatment’. The growing numbers of images currently in circulation in the international media depicting the ritual abuse of Iraqi prisoners belie humane treatment and contain a disturbing sub-text. A significant proportion of the photographs include US female personnel deliberately posed to suggest the coercive and sexually loaded subordination of Iraqi male prisoners – all of whom are naked, hooded and bound. The connotations of sexual violence contained in these images along with themes of subordination and domination are calculated to cause maximum offence to Muslim sensibilities. Other disturbing images, of naked prisoners bound together and forced to engage in crude sex simulations further reinforce connotations of the objectification, humiliation and de-humanisation of Iraqi prisoners.
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Tom Clonan

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Tom Clonan
Dublin Institute of Technology
Total Publications: 45