What has and should happen when prisoners of war suspect a fellow prisoner of collaborating with the enemy? What laws govern prisoners when confronted by infractions of military regulations, criminal behavior, or treason? The answers, reveals Mark M. Hull in Option 17: Prisoners of War on Trial, are ambiguous, varied, and open to interpretation. Historically, soldiers in confinement have resorted to a number of solutions, including holding formal trials with fellow prisoners serving as judge, jury, and (sometimes) executioner.
Since WWII, many armies have adopted doctrines similar to the US Code of Conduct, a guide to command and behavior in captivity, but the legality of such codes are questionable especially in the face of international laws like the Geneva Conventions. Hull recounts case after case exhibiting widely uneven applications of justice, ranging from Canadians lending guns and ammo to German POWS, allowing them to perform an organized execution of identified deserters, to lynch mobs in American POW camps killing suspected traitors. Hull delves into the US National Archives, the Center for Military History, Archives of the Judge Advocate General Corps, the National Archives (UK), Bundesarchiv, Bundesarchiv-Militärarchiv, and state university archives and collections in search of answers to the ethical and moral questions of just what soldiers are allowed to and should do when they find a traitor in their midst.