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Definition A “detainee” in military operations refers to an individual who is held in custody by armed forces due to security concerns, during periods of active conflict, or for law enforcement reasons. They are not formally charged with a crime and might be held for questioning or for maintaining security. The treatment and rights of […]


A “detainee” in military operations refers to an individual who is held in custody by armed forces due to security concerns, during periods of active conflict, or for law enforcement reasons. They are not formally charged with a crime and might be held for questioning or for maintaining security. The treatment and rights of detainees are outlined in various international humanitarian laws.

Key Takeaways

  1. The term ‘Detainee’ in military operations primarily refers to an individual who is held in custody by a state or armed forces, particularly during times of war or conflict. This person may not necessarily be a prisoner of war, but could be an individual who is considered to pose a threat.
  2. Treatment of detainees is subject to strict international and national laws and regulations to prevent abuses. This includes the Geneva Conventions, which dictate humane treatment of detainees, regardless of their status or the reason for their detention.
  3. The process of identifying, capturing, and detaining individuals is an important aspect of military operations, as it can provide valuable intelligence and prevent potential threats. However, it can also raise complex ethical, legal, and strategic issues.


The military operations term “Detainee” signifies an individual held in custody for security reasons, for protection, or because he or she may have valuable information.

It’s a significant term since it delineates the legal and ethical protocols the military must follow concerning the treatment of these individuals.

The treatment and handling of detainees is guided by internationally recognized protocols such as the Geneva Conventions to prevent human rights abuses, guaranteeing the right to humane treatment despite their status.

Hence, in the context of military operations, the term “Detainee” is directly connected to human rights, international law, and ethical practices of warfare.


Detainee is a term often heard in military operations, referring to individuals who are detained by armed forces during combat or a conflict. The purpose of detaining these individuals typically involves ensuring the safety of military operations, gathering intelligence, or maintaining order in a war-torn region.

When armed forces encounter an individual who may pose a threat to their mission, say, either by direct participation in hostilities against them or by possible critical intelligence they may hold, the forces might detain this individual. These detainees are typically held to prevent them from further participation in the conflict until their status can be determined or the conflict has ended.

The treatment and status of detainees are often a focus of international humanitarian law and the law of military conflict, ensuring they are treated fairly and humanely. For instance, under the Geneva Conventions, detainees are entitled to certain rights and protections, such as proper medical care, safety from violence, and fair treatment during any interrogation.

Detaining hostile individuals for the purpose of preventing them from further engaging in a conflict is thus a key part of a military operation, helping to ensure the protection of ongoing military efforts, and the safety and security of the personnel involved. It is crucial, however, that this process respects international law and the detainees’ human rights.

Examples of Detainee

Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp – This is probably the most well-known example of detainees in a military operation. Following the 9/11 attacks in America, the U.S. military detained suspected terrorists in this camp located at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba. Detainees came from all over the world and were detained without trial for countless years.

Abu Ghraib Prison – During the Iraq War in the early 2000s, U.S. military forces detained a large number of Iraqi prisoners suspected of activities against the coalition forces. Later on, there was a huge scandal regarding the mistreatment and abuse of these detainees which caused an international outcry.

Japanese-American Internment during WWII – Post the Pearl Harbor attack, around 120,000 Japanese-Americans were detained and forcibly relocated to internment camps by the U.S. government out of fear of disloyalty and espionage. Although this example is from the past, it is a major incident involving the use of detainee status in a large-scale military operation. Even though these individuals were citizens of the U.S., they were considered detainees in this context due to the circumstances of war.

FAQ Section

What is a Detainee?

A detainee is an individual held in custody. In military terms, detainees are often individuals captured in relation to an armed conflict, such as war criminals, prisoners of war, or civilians who pose a threat.

What is the protocol for handling detainees in the military?

In the military, detainees are handled in strict compliance with international law, including the Geneva Conventions. This means they must be treated humanely and can’t be tortured, among other protections.

Where are military detainees held?

Detainees captured by the military are usually held at specialized detention facilities, which vary in location depending on the specific conflict and nation involved. One of the most well-known is the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

What rights do detainees have?

Detainees have numerous rights under international law. These include the right to humane treatment, freedom from torture, ability to communicate with the outside world, and provision of a fair trial if charged with a crime.

Can a military detainee be released?

Yes, military detainees can be released. Release procedures may depend on several factors, such as the detainee’s perceived ongoing threat, their health, and the political landscape.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • War Hazard Compensation Act
  • Hostage Situation and Compensation
  • Disability Compensation
  • POW Benefits
  • Military Detention

Sources for More Information

  • Law.cornell.edu: Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute provides comprehensive legal references and definitions.
  • Un.org: The United Nations homepage offers global perspective on human rights issues including detainees.
  • Hrw.org: Human Rights Watch is an independent organization dedicated to defending and protecting human rights, including providing information about the treatment of detainees.
  • Icrc.org: The International Committee of the Red Cross provides resources related to humanitarian issues including detainees during military operations.

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