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Primary Sources: The Geneva Convention

The Geneva Conventions are a series of treaties signed in Geneva, Switzerland between 1864 and 1949 that provide for the humane treatment of soldiers and civilians during wartime. In 1957, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam ratified the updated 1949 Geneva Conventions, which included the guidelines relating to prisoners of war, included below.

However, the Vietnamese added the condition that ìprisoners of war prosecuted and convicted for war crimes or for crimes against humanity, in accordance with the principles laid down by the Nuremberg Court of Justice shall not benefit from the present Convention, as specified in Article 85.

Citing that clause, the North Vietnamese took the position that U.S. pilots who dropped bombs on their soldiers and civilians in an undeclared war were war criminals, preventing them from the protections of the convention. While the North Vietnamese asserted publicly that their treatment of American POWs was humane, they tortured the majority of American POWs during the war.

Click on a section heading to read any part of the Geneva Convention pertaining to prisoners of war:

Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
Geneva, 12 August 1949



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