People who have been in the military will know that if they are interned as combatants and questioned, all they have to answer is their name, rank, and serial number. So for example, if Private Paula is taken captive with his unit of Marines, he will repeat again and again, "I am Private Paula, 111111-P-123456" but cannot be made to answer any other question through bad treatment (though better treatment for answering is ok). Also often answering might violate other orders by their superiors.

Now, let's assume for some reason or another, PP ends up captive in the US during a mission that considers the private a hostile combatant - for example during a training exercise that declares the private to be a member of the Moronian military which attacks the training area. However, the captor is the (civil) police, who begin to question them about a crime that simultaneously happened and in which the private might or might not have been involved. In any case: PP doesn't put up resistance, is read their rights and all such, but all they answer is their name, rank, and serial number before being carted to the station. Let's for simplicity assume that the whole thing happened in Nevada.

Now, here the rest of Article 5 of the Geneva convention comes into play:

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind. - Article 17 Geneva III Convention (1949)

The private was arrested in some way or another, but does the private count as interned in such a way that they can rely on the Geneva Convention?

  • 2
    The serial contains the DoB, 11th November 19/2011 for PP
    – Trish
    May 30, 2022 at 10:02
  • 3
    I've made several corrections, most notably to replace "interred," which means "buried" (as a corpse) with "interned," which means "imprisoned or confined (especially in connection with a war)." I would have made Private Paula's pronouns consistent -- switching from "he" to "they" is confusing, especially given the presence of a plural candidate antecedent in "the police," but I didn't want to force a particular choice.
    – phoog
    May 30, 2022 at 10:21
  • 7
    @PMF in fact the fifth amendment provides greater protection to interrogation subjects than do the Geneva conventions.
    – phoog
    May 30, 2022 at 10:37
  • 1
    Your question has gone a bit off the rails as the 5th Amendment is the governing force here. The Geneva Conventions require rank so that the soldier can be treated according to rank (notably officer vs enlisted has a material difference). Name and serial are so the captor can notify Red Cross or adversary diplomats that they have the soldier. Name is a cross-check for serial number so the soldier can be identified positively despite a typo. May 31, 2022 at 3:04
  • 1
    I was always of the opinion, that the police were required to hand the person over to the military police to deal with. However they can then hand the person back if they deem it appropriate.
    – Bib
    May 31, 2022 at 14:20

1 Answer 1


If I understand the question correctly, the captive is a US marine who was participating in a training exercise in the United States and then arrested by civilian police who were not participating in the training exercise. The US marine, possibly believing that the police are in fact part of the exercise, refuses to give any information other than name, rank and serial number.

do they count as interned in such a way that they can rely on the Geneva Convention?

No. The third Geneva convention applies to prisoners of war. There is no prisoner of war in this scenario. First, there is no war. Second, even if there were a war, the convention only applies to those who have "fallen into the power of the enemy" (Article 4).

  • For the maneuver's purpose, Paula is a combatant for, let's say Moronia (which for the purpose of the maneuver is an enemy country, right? But yet he has not "fallen into the power of the enemy?
    – Trish
    May 30, 2022 at 11:47
  • 14
    @Trish a fictional enemy is fictional. If you're asking whether the Geneva conventions apply within the fictional universe of the maneuvers, yes, they do, but the cops aren't part of that universe. From whose point of view are you asking the question: the cops'? Paula's? The US military justice system's? The Nevada prosecutor's? The Nevada court's?
    – phoog
    May 30, 2022 at 12:33
  • 6
    @Trish Paula is pretending to be a combatant for Moronia, but is in fact a combatant for the United States. The entire armed conflict is make-believe and is not an actual conflict, and no one is actually an enemy of anyone else. The Geneva Convention doesn’t apply any more here than it does to any other LARP.
    – cpast
    May 30, 2022 at 15:49
  • 13
    That said, Paula is still protected by the Fifth Amendment and can generally refuse to answer the cops’ questions just like any other arrestee.
    – cpast
    May 30, 2022 at 15:51
  • 14
    @cpast "Paula is pretending to be a combatant for Moronia, but is in fact a combatant for the United States": no, Paula is not a combatant for any country, and nobody is a combatant because a training exercise is not combat.
    – phoog
    May 30, 2022 at 20:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .