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prisoner of war

Introduction

prisoner of war, in international law, person captured by a belligerent while fighting in the military. International law includes rules on the treatment of prisoners of war but extends protection only to combatants. This excludes civilians who engage in hostilities (by international law they are war criminals; see war crimes) and forces that do not observe conventional requirements for combatants (see war, laws of).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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