Can POWs be forced to give name, rank and serial# (Geneva)

AIUI, the Geneva Conventions compel POWs to divulge name, rank and serial number, but nothing more. But what if a POW refuses to give even that - do the Conventions allow any coercion to be applied to get that info out of him?

No. One critical thing you have to understand is that these agreements are bilateral. If one side in a conflict isn’t taking prisoners or is ignoring the Geneva conventions, signatory nations do not have to obey them if the other side is not respecting them. This is why the mistreatment of insurgents - and indefinite detention of them - committed by the USA isn’t a violation of international law, because the other side in the conflict tortures prisoners and does much worse.

The info is in article 17 of the 3rd Geneva Convention.

No torture, etc. allowed.

Note that some POWs may be unable to provide such information due to medical or mental condition and must be suitably treated. So it’s assumed that the info is not always available.

One thing a prisoner should be concerned about it is making it seem that they are something other than a legit soldier in uniform. For example, a spy or a civilian “borrowing” a uniform. Things can go badly for them so providing the info is a really good idea.

I have had long conversations with friends of mine that teach training specific to resistance. Here are the main points:

  1. EVERYBODY breaks. Everyone. The movies that portray people as badasses lipping off are total bullshit

  2. Lipping off/giving attitude to the interrogators, is also BS and will only lead to more serious injury.

  3. Most intelligence is nearly useless after 24 hours

So, rather than name, rank and serial number, the idea is to try and seem helpful and talk around the answers, trying to hold out as long as you can. So there you go

Thats not the case the Geneva convention explicitly says it applies whenever one or more signatury is involved, not just when both sides are signatories.

The reason insurgents are not covered is that they are not formal uniformed combatants. If you aren’t a soldier in an army you aren’t covered by the convention. If you aren’t covered by the convention you can be treated as a criminal.

So the worst case, if you refuse to give a name rank, and serial number. Then the enemy can say “right, then you aren’t a soldier then”, and treat you like a criminal (just as if you caught in civilian clothes)

No, they can’t make that claim if you are in uniform because they already have that information in almost all cases. Your name and rank is on your uniform and on your dog tags and probably in your wallet-to just give your name, rank and serial number out is to say “You aren’t getting anything out of me that you don’t already know”, and to refuse to give even that is idiocy. It would make as much sense as saying “I will never reveal to you my hair color or how much I weigh!”.

Though presumably if you are refusing to give up that information then you don’t have dog tags or other insignia that reveal it. In that case, and you refuse to provide it, they can assume you are just a random insurgent who picked up a uniform.

IIRC didn’t the International Red Cross register POW’s by name and serial number? I think families were notified if their relative was a POW?

The International Red Cross sent care packages during the wars.

If you are wearing a uniform without insignia and/or name and you are refusing to say who you are, you are basically admitting to being an insurgent or spy. While there is no law preventing a soldier from doing something that stupid, there is also no law preventing her/him from suffering the consequences.

I agree the simple answer is that the Conventions assume that prisoners will be willing to give this information; that they will be told they are permitted to and realistically will not be looking purely on their own to give more resistance than they have been told they should try to.

So there there’s no airtight process for forcing them to give that info and still follow the Conventions. A captor who applies coercion would be violating the Conventions. A captor who declares a prisoner an illegal combatant, and treats them as such, for refusing to give this info would be violating the Conventions if in fact they know otherwise the prisoner is a uniformed legal combatant.

Although the information is not as intrinsically worthless as a person’s weight, or as a service number would be (except as a potential tool to look up relevant information if the captor has that capability). Rank is a significant piece of information, allowing a captor to focus on the prisoners likely to have the most information, even using allowable means. Name could be also, such as identifying by surname prisoners more likely to have mixed loyalties or otherwise susceptible to various non-coercive tactics to get information.

Just want to point out the obligation a POW has to provide the basic info. From the link I gave earlier:

"Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information.

If he wil[l]fully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or status."

It is an requirement to provide this information. The official, direct consequences aren’t particularly horrible if the enemy is going by the rules. For an officer, being treated like an enlisted person isn’t all that bad. But, again, this assumes the other side is following the rules. If they aren’t, then who knows what can ensue.

During war, when things go belly up, people do all sorts of things to try and save their skin. An enlisted person might grab a dead officer’s uniform hoping to get better prisoner treatment. Ditching all IDs along the way. But then once in custody realizes that this might have not been a good idea. So the idiot might just go mum.

A lot of people don’t make good decisions without bullets and shells falling all around. After some time at the front lines, long term planning is often lost completely.

“The Conventions apply to a signatory nation even if the opposing nation is not a signatory, but only if the opposing nation “accepts and applies the provisions” of the Conventions.[23]”

So if in a war against, say, North Vietnam, if the opposing party commits gross breaches of the conventions, the USA is not legally bound by *international *law to respect them in return.

(the USA can still decide by it’s own laws not to commit war crimes)

And since nobody else has stated it explicitly, the purpose of such information is to enable your captors to communicate to your own nation who they have, so they can inform your family, arrange prisoner exchanges, and so on.

Correct. There is really no circumstance in which a soldier would want to conceal their identity. It just doesn’t make sense to do so.

Even if you are trying to escape identification (for whatever reason) you would want to recite your cover story instead of remaining silent.

I believe in addition to Name, Rank, and Serial Number, one may be asked to supply their Date of Birth. I am unable to foresee how much damage to national security would follow after release of this information to an enemy.

If you are a relative of someone important, hiding your identity could be a good idea.

Consider Yakov Dzhugashvili, son of Stalin, who the Germans considered trading for Hitler’s nephew Leo Raubal Jr.

They were treated as pawns, but the family of others might not be treated as such.

No idea about Hitler’s nephew but Stalin couldn’t care less about his son Strange for such a compassionate man.

One thing regarding the information being worthless if it was a day old it was helpful for the opponents to know what unit they were fighting- a reserve unit or (as an example) a veteran unit of the SS.

did/do they send each other lists of captured names ect ?

I remember for the longest time a trope in entertainment was " so and so went off to war got caught and sat it out in a pow camp and no one knew if he was alive or dead so his honey went off and married someone else then he came back and the plot histrionics ensued

Well, they’re supposed to send each other lists of names. But of course, not all countries do.