O'Reilly again falsely claimed Geneva Conventions apply only to "uniform[ed]" soldiers "fighting for a recognized country"

››› ››› EVA HOWE

On The Radio Factor, host Bill O'Reilly again falsely claimed that Geneva Convention protections apply only to those in "uniform" and "fighting for a recognized country." In fact, the protections outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention extend to civilians, not only uniformed soldiers.

On the December 7 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor, host Bill O'Reilly again falsely claimed that Geneva Convention protections apply only to those in "uniform" and "fighting for a recognized country." O'Reilly's co-host, Lis Wiehl, agreed. However, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, the protections outlined in the Fourth Geneva Convention extend to civilians, not only to uniformed soldiers as O'Reilly and Wiehl maintained.

Responding to a caller's comment that "I'd also like you to maybe help people understand what ... the Geneva Convention say[s] about people who are on the battlefield out of uniform," O'Reilly said, "Well, it's very simple. And nobody disputes it. You gotta have a uniform on, and you've gotta be fighting for a recognized country to get the protections."

In fact, while the Third Geneva Convention addresses "prisoners of war" (POWs), including one category of prisoner that must be in uniform ("a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance") to be granted protections, the Fourth Geneva Convention lays out separate protections for civilians. Although the protections for civilians are more limited than for POWs, under Article IV, "Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals." Under the convention, civilians have these rights:

1. They shall be enabled to receive the individual or collective relief that may be sent to them.

2. They shall, if their state of health so requires, receive medical attention and hospital treatment to the same extent as the nationals of the State concerned.

3. They shall be allowed to practice their religion and to receive spiritual assistance from ministers of their faith.

4. If they reside in an area particularly exposed to the dangers of war, they shall be authorized to move from that area to the same extent as the nationals of the State concerned.

5. Children under fifteen years, pregnant women and mothers of children under seven years shall benefit by any preferential treatment to the same extent as the nationals of the State concerned.

O'Reilly has repeated this falsehood before, as Media Matters has documented here, here, and here.

From the December 7 broadcast of the Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

CALLER: -- somebody to answer the question of, "Can they have it both ways?" They want to apply Geneva Convention rules to the insurgents in the battlefield, which is a military jurisdiction. Yet they want to apply civil law when they become prisoners. And I'd also like you to maybe help people understand what does the Geneva Convention say about people who are on the battlefield out of uniform.

O'REILLY: Well, it's very simple. And nobody disputes it. You gotta have a uniform on, and you've gotta be fighting for a recognized country to get the protections, correct?

WIEHL: Absolutely. That's right.

Posted In
Justice & Civil Liberties
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.