- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 30, 2004

The Ohio family of captured Army Reserve Spc. Keith Maupin prayed yesterday that news of his execution was untrue.

Arab network Al Jazeera reported this week that Spc. Maupin was fatally shot in the back of the head after nearly three months of captivity, but U.S. Army officials declined to confirm the death since they have only a grainy execution video and no body.

Meanwhile, a prisoner-of-war group condemned the Pentagon for classifying the 20-year-old reservist as “missing-captured” as opposed to “prisoner of war.”

“It’s an insult to every man and woman serving in the military,” said Lynn O’Shea, research director of the National Alliance of POW/MIA Families. “Why diminish the status of the captives?”

Specifically, Ms. O’Shea said, POW status requires that captives be treated in accord with rules set by the Geneva Conventions, which do not mention “missing-captured” status by name.

Granted, she added, the Iraq-based terrorists capturing and slaughtering people on camera don’t seem too concerned about the Geneva Conventions or any other international laws, but it gives a certain standing.

“You don’t even have the moral grounds to say that this is a prisoner of war, and he must be treated according to the Geneva Convention,” she said.

Shari Lawrence, deputy public affairs officer of the Army Human Rights Command, said it was a simple matter of following the established guidelines for classifying captured service members.

“To be a prisoner of war, you have to be held by a recognized government,” she said, which has not been the case with Spc. Maupin and many other American soldiers captured during the war in Iraq.

The issue of Spc. Maupin’s status arose earlier this month after a POW group sent the Maupin family a box of POW/MIA bracelets for the Maupins and others to wear as a constant reminder of Spc. Maupin’s captivity.

On June 6, the Army officer assisting the Maupin family responded with an e-mail.

“I gave [the bracelets] to the Maupin family, and they were very appreciative of the gift,” the Army major wrote. “However, technically [Spc. Maupin] is not classified as a POW. His status remains ‘captured.’”

He went on to say the “Maupin family is reluctant to wear the bracelets” because they “just don’t want to offend anyone, especially family members of past POW/MIAs.”

It stirs up a sensitive debate among POW groups, who accuse the Pentagon of trying to eliminate the status entirely. Ms. Lawrence said this is simply not the case.

But, she said, she understands that “it’s a very emotional issue.”

“I think sometimes people think that if they’re not listed as POW, then they’re not remembered or carried in the same status,” Ms. Lawrence said. “That’s not true. They are carried in the same status.”

Ms. O’Shea said the classification also matters in terms of keeping the plight of captured soldiers at the front of Americans’ minds.

“If you say someone is ‘missing-captured,’ it’s an oxymoron. What does that mean? You can’t be both. It’s a question mark,” she said. “‘Prisoner of war,’ though, paints a picture. You have absolutely no question about his status.”

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