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Pakistan Army takes U-turn, says ‘only one’ Indian pilot in its custody

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 27-02-2019
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(Video by Times of India)

Retracting from its earlier statement that two Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were under its custody, Pakistan Army on Wednesday evening said it has arrested “only one” Indian pilot.

“There is only one pilot under Pakistan Army’s custody. Wing Comd Abhinandan is being treated as per norms of military ethics,” Pakistani military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted.

Later, a video of Abhinandan was released in which he is seen praising the Pakistan Army for treating him well.

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The wing commander, whose MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force while engaged in hot pursuit to repel the enemy attack earlier in the day, ejected safely but landed across the Line of Control and was taken into custody by the Pakistan Army.

In a video released just after his detention, Abhinandan was seen bloodied and blindfolded but answering questions in a composed and stoic manner. Several video clips surfaced on social media where he is seen beaten by locals while lying in a stream before being taken away by a soldier.

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Meanwhile, India summoned the acting high commissioner of Pakistan and demanded the immediate and safe return of Abhinandan. It has also made clear to Pakistan that no harm should be caused to the Indian defence personnel, the External Affairs Ministry said, adding that it has conveyed strong objection to the neighbouring country over the “vulgar display” of injured personnel in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.

The rules protecting prisoners of war (POWs) are specific. They were first detailed in the 1929 Geneva Convention and later amended in the third 1949 Geneva Convention following the lessons of World War II.

According to the rules, the status of POW only applies in international armed conflict. “POWs are usually members of the armed forces of one of the parties to a conflict who fall into the hands of the adverse party,” the Convention states.

It says POWs cannot be prosecuted for taking a direct part in hostilities. “Their detention is not a form of punishment, but only aims to prevent further participation in the conflict. They must be released and repatriated without delay after the end of hostilities. The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under International Humantarian Law,” it says.

The rules specify that POWs must be treated humanely in all circumstances. “They are protected against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults, and public curiosity,” the Geneva Convention states.

(With PTI inputs)

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