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There are quite a few people claiming that, according to the Geneva Convention, the Humans in this story are committing a war crime using the alien POWs the way they are. https://www.reddit.com/r/HFY/comments/jjjin9/sorry_but_were_better_at_this_than_you/

Here is the relevant passage, along with some context.

(The Humans have just captured 5 alien soldiers as the necessary first step for the raid about to commence):

"Bring these guys back with us to the vehicles! And Masgon, tell the artillery to hit this sector in 20 minutes. Fire for effect!"

Xentus was not happy with being left on guard duty. He always got the shitty jobs. Plus, his partner was an idiot.

"Where is everyone?"

Xentus sighed. "Did you not hear? There were reports of human contact along the western side. They took 5 prisoners!"

Corbuc scratched his head. "Oh. So why is everyone gone?"

Xentus sighed, but louder. "Just take your seat and watch the trees. Nothing's going to happen, anyways." As if on cue, 5 human APCs suddenly burst through the forest. Xentus scrambled to sit up in his turret, tossing his cup of brey across the room. Shit, I'm gonna have to clean that up later. "CORBUC, YOU BETTER BE AWAKE" He screamed as he hit the alarm.

"Why are you so excited?" Corbuc drawled, "They'll never make it past the mines, and if they do, the autoturrets will take care of them. They're all bio-coded to allow only Queztalia." Xentus sat back, realizing he was right.

"Hey, did you just say something smart?" Xentus asked.

"I'm always smart"

"Yeah right," Xentus quipped. He sat back in his chair, but kept an eye on the approaching forces as something didn't feel right. Early reports of battle with the humans had been that they were cunning and hardy, and charging into certain death didn't feel like something they would do for no reason. Any moment now they'll hit the mines. The humans kept coming. Any moment now. The humans kept coming. They really should have tripped the mines by now. The humans kept coming.

"They definitely should have blow up by now," Corbuc said. Xentus pushed down his surprise at Corbuc saying 2 smart things within 5 minutes and focused on the incoming APCs. They were within 50 meters of the ship now, definitely within the minefield and the engagement distance of the autocannons. "Fuck it," he growled, turning his turret onto the APCs and pulling the trigger. But nothing happened. "What the--" He pulled the trigger again, to no avail. A little notification popped up, reading 'Friendly forces detected'. This doesn't make sense!

Suddenly, the cannons on all 5 vehicles unleashed a barrage onto the ship, blowing a hole in the side. The human war machines thundered into the ship, leaving an odd sense of calm on the landscape. Xentus keyed the radio. "Humans have breached the hull! Repeat, humans have breached the hull."

"How many of them are there?!"

"About 5 vehicles so.. a platoon? Company?"

"What are they gonna do to us? We've got 100 times the amount of soldiers as them."

As if on cue, the vehicles suddenly burst back out of the hole they had created. Charging across the landscape, they disappeared as quickly as they had come.

"Oh, uh, they left" said Xentus.

"Guess they realized their insanity," came the reply. "Where did they breach us, anyways?"

Xentus surveyed the now-quiet landscape. "Not sure... on the aft side, near the thrusters. Right next to the--Oh no"


Doll (now called Dolly) watched the trees fly by the window of the APC. She was tied to the seat, but at least it was a comfortable one. Across from her sat the Lieutenant, Adams.

According to the detractors, the Humans are using the POWs as Human Shields (or Meat Shields), claiming this is no different from placing POWs around a SAM battery emplacement (and that even forcing a captured enemy combatant to open a bio-metric lock is a war crime).

Everything I can find talking about Human Shields only talk about civilians and use examples of placing said civilians next to military assets to stop the enemy from attacking the assets.

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    Wow, that is such crappy writing. Jun 14 at 19:26
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    "Xentus pushed down his surprise at Corbuc saying 2 smart things within 5 minutes" - herrrrggghh
    – code11
    Jun 14 at 21:36
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    I gave up as soon as I read the misuse of "fire for effect" when giving a delayed Fire Control Order. SMH
    – Rick
    Jun 14 at 22:08
  • @MichaelHarvey Never said it was good writing. ;P
    – Tory
    Jun 14 at 22:10
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According to the detractors, the Humans are using the POWs as Human Shields (or Meat Shields), claiming this is no different from placing POWs around a SAM battery emplacement (and that even forcing a captured enemy combatant to open a bio-metric lock is a war crime).

Everything I can find talking about Human Shields only talk about civilians and use examples of placing said civilians next to military assets to stop the enemy from attacking the assets.

The question in this case is really an unresolved open question.

First of all, there is not moral consensus on whether sentient aliens are entitled to "human rights".

Secondly, the POWs are not really being used as human shields. There is no contemplation that their presence will prevent the opponents from attacking in order to show mercy on their compatriots. Instead, the POWs are being used to deceive the enemy's automated systems that the attacking force is friendly despite the implausibility of that given their actions.

It is really more analogous to forcing a prisoner to write a misleading letter or make a misleading phone call, while under duress.

While the use of fraud and deception in warfare may be dishonorable, usually actual war crimes involving POWs entail mistreatment of a POW or putting a POW in harm's way (even if presenting only a risk of death or injury).

Also, of course, much of the Geneva Convention's requirements regarding the treatment of POWs is a treaty imposed obligation, binding morally because both combatants at one point consented to it, rather than necessarily being a universal and mandatorily applicable component of customary international law. The fact that the Geneva Convention might be violated in some detail, if true, doesn't automatically make it a war crime in this context.

In the same vein, the Geneva Convention make a distinction between the treatment of uniformed and non-uniformed combatants, but this distinction, established by a treaty agreed to by many nations, is not necessarily inherently relevant to determining if something is a war crime in a war with a non-signatory. It is a provision that relies of cultural meaning that is shared by the treaty signatories, but may not make sense vis-a-vis non-human sentient aliens.

In the same vein, one wouldn't think that in a war with intelligent dragons, the fact that the dragons were or were not wearing uniforms, when dragons customarily fight naked, was significant, unless the dragon nation agreed to the Geneva Conventions in a duly ratified treaty.

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    Your "secondly" is my main counter argument against the "Human Shield" claim. To clear up the ambiguity of "does an alien have human rights?", how would this be ruled in a military court if it were just two human armies (just far enough into the future to have sci-fi style, instantaneous, long range scanners)?
    – Tory
    Jun 14 at 18:48
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    "forcing a prisoner to write a misleading letter or make a misleading phone call, while under duress": While I don't see this addressed explicitly in the Third Geneva Convention, it seems contrary to the spirit. Prisoners are not to be subjected to any kind of coercion to extract information (Art. 17), nor forced to do work of military character or purpose (Art. 50). Jun 14 at 21:18
  • @NateEldredge Much easier to find an open and shut war crime of a Geneva Convention signatory than in the absence of it.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 14 at 22:10
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Assuming the aliens are covered by the 1929 Geneva Convention Relative to Prisoners of War, this seems to violate several provisions:

Art. 7: As soon as possible after their capture, prisoners of war shall be evacuated to depots sufficiently removed from the fighting zone for them to be out of danger. [...] Prisoners shall not be unnecessarily exposed to danger while awaiting evacuation from a fighting zone.

The humans are deliberately bringing the captured aliens into battle instead of making an effort to evacuate them.

Art. 9: No prisoner may at any time be sent to an area where he would be exposed to the fire of the fighting zone, or be employed to render by his presence certain points or areas immune from bombardment.

The alien prisoners are certainly being exposed to fire, and the whole point of this operation seems to be that their presence (for whatever reason) is preventing the human units from being attacked.

Art. 31. Work done by prisoners of war shall have no direct connection with the operations of the war.

If you characterize this strategy of having the aliens bypass the mines as "work" that they are assigned, then it's certainly prohibited as it has a very direct connection with a military operation.

Art. 32. It is forbidden to employ prisoners of war on unhealthy or dangerous work.

It's unquestionably dangerous.

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