This photograph violates international law. Article 13 of the Geneva Convention (III), governing the treatment of prisoners of war, requires Iran to protect prisoners against “insults and public curiosity.” This photograph — including a female sailor apparently forced to wear a headscarf – is a quintessential example of “public curiosity” and would be interpreted as insulting throughout the Muslim world. (And if you don’t think Iran is in a state of armed conflict against the United States, tell that to the families of hundreds of American soldiers who’ve lost their lives to Iranians and Iranian-backed terrorists.)
It’s humiliating to the US, and the Navy, and massive propaganda coup, but hardly a war crime. In fact, it is something of a defense against charges of war crimes. Had the Iranians paraded the troops through the streets and permitted throngs to abuse them (something the North Vietnamese routinely did with captured American aircrew) that would have been a war crime.
Instead, it would appear that during the brief detention, reasonable care was taken to avoid causing harm to the sailors. They do not appear to have been beaten, nor were they stripped and forced into prisoner’s garb. They reportedly were provided adequate food and water.
The US has routinely released pictures and video of detainees in Guantanamo Bay. And the same silly charge of war crimes was leveled by the unserious elements of the left.
We are curious to know the exact circumstances of the capture of the two Riverine Command Boats, and the instructions they were operating under. And we certainly anticipate Iran continuing to be the obnoxious bully nation with its goal of regional hegemony. Worse, we know our current President will do little to challenge Iran’s increasingly bad behavior in the region, even as long standing allies in the region realize we’ve abandoned them.
But absent other evidence, it does not appear the Iranians seriously mistreated our sailors.