In times of great stress and life-threatening action, you sometimes have to make split-second decisions that you would not make under other circumstances. Doing the wrong thing when you’re in the military could lead to you being accused of war crimes.
War crimes are defined as acts done during war that violate the customs of warfare. The United Nations defines war crimes as acts such as:
- Willful killing
- Willfully causing serious injury or great suffering to another person
- Causing unjustified and extensive damage or appropriation of property
- Forcing prisoners of war or other protected individuals to serve with a hostile power
- Willfully depriving a prisoner of war of the rights of a fair trial
- Taking hostages
- Unlawful deportation
- Unlawful confinement
- Biological experimentation
There are also other serious violations that apply in international armed conflicts. For example, it is not considered to be within the framework of international law to intentionally direct attacks at civilians or objects that are not military objectives. It is considered a war crime to intentionally attack those providing humanitarian assistance or those on peacekeeping missions.
It is also against the overall international rules to kill or wound a person who has already laid down their weapons and surrendered.
Unfortunately, in the heat of the moment, people do make mistakes that lead to deaths or injuries that may fall into these categorizations.
What should you do if you are accused of committing war crimes?
If you are accused of participating in war crimes, you deserve an opportunity to defend yourself and your actions. Whether you’re charged with violations of the rules of engagement or the Geneva Convention, it’s still your right to defend yourself and what you had to do to stay safe while working in the military.
It’s also your right to learn more about your legal options and to get answers about the situation you’re in. It is possible to get a fair trial in a war crimes case, and that is something that you deserve as you attempt to move forward after returning from war. Though the system may seem to be stacked against you, there are options that may help.