Irek Hamidullin, a Russian citizen and former member of the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, was sentenced to life in prison by a United States Federal Court in 2015 for his role in masterminded a 2009 attack on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.Now, he’s appealing the decision, claiming that he is a lawful combatant, not an ordinary criminal, and is entitled to the rights afforded to enemy prisoners of war.The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond, Virginia is scheduled to hear arguments Dec. 9.[caption id="attachment_9036" align="aligncenter" width="300"]
Irek Hamidullin at his sentencing in 2015. Source: al Jazeera.[/caption]The Law of Armed Conflict, which regulates the conduct of armed hostilities between nations, affords certain rights and responsibilities to both captor and captive during war. In this case, Hamidullin argues that the acts he committed were carried out in an armed conflict that began after the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.If a combatant is granted POW status, that person’s actions during wartime, as long as they are not violations of human rights, are exempt from civilian court prosecution. POW’s are kept until the end of hostilities and then released.
POW Status is a long shot; Taliban never followed Geneva Convention
In 2002, however, the U.S. government declared that anyone fighting on behalf of the Taliban did not qualify for lawful combatant status, and the federal courts have generally upheld that ruling ever since.The main argument against Hamidullin’s claim for POW status is that he did not fight with a recognized army, but instead with a “rogue band of insurgents” that violated the Geneva Convention for claiming lawful combatant status in multiple ways, including never wearing uniforms or insignias and not respecting customs or laws of war.The 2009 attack he was convicted for involved an assault upon an Afghan Border Police outpost and the subsequent engagement of responding U.S. troops. After planning the attack for months, he launched the assault on Nov. 28, 2009, with the intention of shooting down United States helicopters responding to the attack. When the weapons misfired, he and his troops fled and most were cut down by the U.S. aircraft.During a subsequent sweep of the area by ground troops, Hamidullin was found hiding on the battlefield. He shot at U.S. troops with his Kalashnikov-style rifle and was wounded and ultimately captured.