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Last Updated:  Monday, 24 March, 2003, 07:01 GMT
PoW footage 'breaks convention'
An injured American PoW on al-Jazeera TV
Iraq's defence minister said the PoWs would not be harmed

Footage of captured American soldiers broadcast on Iraqi television violates the Geneva Convention, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

In the videotape, broadcast on Sunday, four men and a woman were questioned and gave their names, military identification numbers and home towns in the United States.

It also showed pictures of at least four bodies, said to be dead American soldiers. Some appeared to have been shot through the head at close range.

Two of the bodies were shown to be lying on a road next to what appeared to be a water or fuel-carrying vehicle and a recovery vehicle.

The US military has confirmed that a six-vehicle supply convoy was ambushed in the area by Iraqi troops, and that 12 of its personnel are missing.

3rd GENEVA CONVENTION
Basic food rations should keep prisoners in good health
Suitable clothing should be supplied, preferably prisoners' original uniforms
Prisoners should be released and repatriated without delay after ceasefire

An ICRC spokeswoman, Nada Doumani, said prisoners of war should not be subject to public exposure.

"Article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention says clearly that prisoners of war must at all times be protected... against insult and public curiosity," she told Reuters news agency.

The five prisoners were said to have been captured around the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya. They are believed to be the first coalition prisoners taken by Iraq.

Two of them appeared to have been wounded. One of the men was lying on the floor on a rug.

Dazed and frightened

Iraq's Defence Minister, Sultan Hashim Ahmed, said Iraq would "not harm the captured prisoners of war".

He added: "It will treat them in accordance with the Geneva Convention on prisoners of war."

He also said that the bodies of the US soldiers were found lying abandoned on a battlefield near Nasiriya.

The prisoners, who identified themselves as being from the 507th maintenance company, were wearing military uniforms. They looked dazed and frightened.

They were asked to give their views on the war.

Asked why he had come to Iraq, one said he "was told to come here".

A captured American servicewoman shown on al-Jazeera TV
Senator John McCain says soldiers' training will stand them in good stead
He said he had come to "fix broke stuff".

Asked if he came to shoot Iraqis, he said: "No, I come to shoot only if I am shot at. They don't bother me - I don't bother them."

He said he did not "want to kill anybody".

Another, asked how many officers were in his unit, he replied: "I don't know sir."

Asked why he had come to Iraq, another said: "I follow orders."

He was then asked if Iraqis had greeted him with "music or with guns". He replied a number of times that he did not understand.

Condemnation

Senator John McCain, who had been held as a prisoner during the Vietnam War, described the soldiers as tough and courageous and said America was proud of them.

Senator McCain said they would have received excellent training to deal with such an event before sent into conflict and this would stand them in good stead.

He said soldiers in such circumstances would know that their country would not give up on them until they were free.

He said the first few hours would be the toughest, but they would know that the period of incarceration would not be indefinite.

The broadcast of the videotape - which received a worldwide airing on the Arabic TV station al-Jazeera - has been condemned by the US and British governments, and by commanders of US-led coalition forces in Iraq.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Ian Pannell
"Captured in battle and interrogated on Iraqi TV


Florien Westphal, International Red Cross
"In any circumstance, prisoners must be treated humanely"




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