April 1, 2007 | Human Events

The Mullahs Scoff at Geneva…Again

For what seems like the millionth time since 1979, the Islamic Republic of Iran has perpetrated an act of war against the West, reaffirmed its hostile, revolutionary intentions, and demonstrated that it is a rogue state which scoffs at the civilizing impulses of international law, including the laws and customs of war.

For what seems like the millionth time in just the last few months, the Iranians have shown that their word is worth nothing.

So will our diplomat class suggest, yet again, that perhaps more negotiations will bring them around?

The mullahs have abducted 15 uniformed members of Her Majesty’s regular armed forces, the British navy and marines. At the time, the Brits were conducting military patrol operations in Iraqi waters with the approval of the Iraqi government and under the auspices of several United Nations Security Council resolutions. Further, when this lawless kidnapping occurred, Iran was about to be sanctioned, yet again, by the Security Council for the nuclear weapons program it has pursued, for years, in violation of its solemn obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

It is an old pattern. The Iranians make commitments. The Iranians break commitments.

We would all like to pretend that there is some rationale for this other than the obvious one — some economic or political explanation that would suggest a solution, accomplishment of which would somehow bring the Islamic Republic within norms of behavior among civilized nations.

Alas, it is not the case. The regime is an Islamic sharia state bent incorrigibly on exporting its revolution. As such, one of its guiding principles is al-Takiyya, the conceit that Muslims are free — indeed, encouraged — to lie and break oaths whenever it is expedient in the belligerent quest to spread the faith. War, Mohammed famously taught, is deception.

As we watch the latest outrage unfold in the Persian Gulf, it bears continuous reminding that Iran is a high contracting party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, including Convention III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The mullahs have never renounced the treaty since coming to power nearly 30 years ago. But, then again, why would they? Like the Nonproliferation Treaty, it is but a parchment promise: readily breakable if given to infidels, readily breakable as necessary to advance the jihad — and a revolutionary Islamic state considers itself in a full-time state of war until all obstacles to imposition of Islamic law have been removed. Death to America and Death to the West are not just slogans for these folks; they are guiding principles.

So in just the last few days, reports abound that the Iranians are busily interrogating their captives about the circumstances surrounding their apprehension. Despite the British government’s global positioning satellite records proving that its personnel never left Iraqi waters, the mullahs falsely maintain that the Brits had strayed into sovereign Iranian territory. On no evidence, they accuse the marines and naval personnel of conducting espionage operations (a capital offense).

And now, we have the spectacle of the only female captive, 26-year-old Leading Seaman Faye Turney. As part of their propaganda campaign, the Iranians have begun broadcasting footage of the kidnapped Britons. This includes Seaman Turney who, since her captivity, has been forced to don a headscarf, the compulsory dress of women in a sharia state. Worse, Turney has transparently been coerced into a contrived “confession.” The airwaves are filled with her tape-recorded declarations that the captives “[o]bviously … trespassed into their [Iranian] waters,” and that their captors — who seized them forcibly — are “very friendly, very hospitable and very thoughtful, nice people” who have inflicted “no hurt or harm,” and, in fact, have been “very, very compassionate.”

All of this blatantly violates Geneva. The British personnel are clearly prisoners of war seized in an armed conflict. They were in uniform, openly conducting patrol operations as part of a national military force. There need be no formal state of war for the conventions to be triggered. Under Article 2, they apply in “all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the state of war is not recognized by one of them.” (Emphasis added.) Even if Iran had not for years been abetting the Iraqi insurgency against coalition forces, the seizure itself was an armed conflict on the high seas between two Geneva signatories — had it not been, the Britons would not have been captured.

Consequently, Iran is obliged to accord its captives the privileges of honorable combatants. For example, prisoners must, under Article 13, be treated “humanely” at all times; they “must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity”; and even when, unlike the Iranians, a capturing nation has a particular, justifiable quarrel with its foes, “[m]easures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.”

Under Articles 14 and 16, moreover, women, who are equally entitled as prisoners “to respect for their persons and their honour[,]” must not be discriminated against and retain “the full civil capacity which they enjoyed at the time of their capture,” meaning their rights must not be infringed “except in so far as the captivity requires.” That this patently includes the free exercise of a prisoner’s religion — and freedom from being compelled to observe Islam or any other religion — is underscored by Article 34’s injunction that “[p]risoners of war shall enjoy complete latitude in the exercise of their religious duties.”

Most fundamentally, lawful, honorable combatants, such as the 15 Britons, may be questioned but they may never be coerced. They are privileged under Article 17 to limit their disclosures to “surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information.” The captors may ask for more, but only gently and must take no for an answer. Leaving aside that torture is independently prohibited by the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment (of which both England and Iran are members), Article 17 elaborates:

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 unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Iran, as always, is in gross violation of these standards — standards which it has given its worthless word to abide by. Parading prisoners of war on television is a violation of their dignity. Patently abusing a woman by imposing Iran’s own religious customs on her and giving her markedly different treatment than the male prisoners may be the norm in fundamentalist Islam, but it is a black-and-white offense against international law. And British forces are rigorously disciplined, well-aware that they need reveal nothing beyond name, rank and serial number. Even if there were a scintilla of proof beyond the say-so of serially lying zealots that the Brits were actually in Iranian waters engaged in espionage, is there an infidel’s chance in the Kaaba that any of these marines and seamen would have confessed to such activities absent intimidation and coercion? The kind of intimidation and coercion we know for a fact the Iranians practiced against British military captives the last time something like this happened, a scant three years ago.


Regardless of how this provocation is resolved, there is no negotiating with this barbarous regime. Negotiation, to be meaningful, connotes a measure of trust that each of the parties will do what it commits to do. It connotes a commitment to certain minima of civilized behavior. How many times must the mullahs illustrate that it is a dangerous mirage to see such things in them?

The Iranians believe that they are at war, that war is deception, and that the conduct of their war is governed by 7th Century notions of humanity. The regime has to go.

Mr. McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor, directs the Center for Law & Counterterrorism at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


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