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With the scandal over prison abuse at Abu Ghraib and the legal controversy over the enemy combatants at Guantanamo Bay, the proper treatment of prisoners of war has once again been thrust into the news. At the heart of this debate stands the Geneva Conventions, a famous set of rules about which most of us know nothing.
In The Rules of War, Derek Jinks--a leading authority on humanitarian law--provides an illuminating account of the Geneva Conventions, revealing when they apply, who they protect, what type of treatment they require, how they should be enforced, and much more. We learn that the Conventions--which were drafted in 1949--apply to all armed conflict, from declared war, to civil war, to armed hostilities short of war. In fact, the Conventions are relevant to a remarkable range of issues, from the trial of Slobodan Milosevic to the ongoing criminal proceedings regarding Rwanda and Sierra Leone. We discover that the Conventions protect a wide range of combatants, from "special ops" forces, to private military contractors, and even to terrorists. There are POW Conventions, but also Civilian Conventions that protects all nationals who have fallen into the hands of the enemy, including "unlawful combatants" such as the Guantanamo detainees. And we see what the Conventions require, from humane treatment, to contact with agencies such as the Red Cross, to release and repatriation at the end of the conflict. This is the only guide for general readers to the Geneva Conventions, rules which will play a key role in hot-button issues from the imminent trial of Saddam Hussein to the treatment of captured terrorists.