Protection of Prisoners of War from Torture with Proper Selection of Soldiers Taking Care of POWs: An Ethical View

Document Type : Narrative Review


1 Sina Trauma and Surgery Research Center, Sina General Hospital, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

2 Medical Ethics and History of Medicine Research Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran

3 Spiritual Health Research Center, Qom University of Medical Sciences, Qom, Iran


Background: Prisoners of War (POWs) undergo different physical and/or psychological tortures. According to the Third Geneva Convention, each government is obliged to protect POWs from any harm, especially torture. Although torture of POWs has been considered in international documents such as the 3rd Red Cross Convention for Prevention of Torture, this issue seems to have been ignored so far. Thus, the current article discusses this issue.
Objectives: This review aimed to describe an important, yet neglected, way to protect POWs from torture.
Methods: The behaviors of Iraqi and Iranian authorities toward the soldiers that were selected to take care of POWs were compared. This review study is based on a narrative search that included articles published on the Iraq-Iran war (1980-88).
Results: According to international laws, there is no ethical justification for the torture of POWs, especially after many years of captivity. During the Iraq-Iran war, Iraqi authorities recruited soldiers who had been harmed in some way by the war to handle Iranian POWs. The presence of war victims as care providers to POWs in detention camps may provide grounds for the torture and maltreatment of POWs.
Conclusion: Prohibiting the presence of war victims in detention camps could be one important and effective way to protect POWs from torture and maltreatment.