Anonymous asked in Politics & GovernmentPolitics · 7 years ago

Historically, what happens to spies who get caught?

7 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    If if happens in peacetime, spies are tried and imprisoned in accordance to the detaining country's espionage laws. A country in which their own spies were born in would work out a deal with the detaining country to get them back mainly because they also hold its own foreign spies as well. If the agreement is all well, the two countries then exchanges spies that have been caught. Executing foreign spies in peacetime would have caused an international outrage and severe relationships with the rest of the world as well as destroying the chances of spies going home to their own country.

    Now for wartime, that's entirely different. The 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare dealt with wartime spies.

    "Article 29 - A person can only be considered a spy when, acting clandestinely or on false pretences, he obtains or endeavours to obtain information in the zone of operations of a belligerent, with the intention of communicating it to the hostile party. Thus, soldiers not wearing a disguise who have penetrated into the zone of operations of the hostile army, for the purpose of obtaining information, are not considered spies. Similarly, the following are not considered spies: Soldiers and civilians, carrying out their mission openly, entrusted with the delivery of despatches intended either for their own army or for the enemy's army. To this class belong likewise persons sent in balloons for the purpose of carrying despatches and, generally, of maintaining communications between the different parts of an army or a territory.

    Article 30 - A spy taken in the act shall not be punished without previous trial.

    Article 31 - A spy who, after rejoining the army to which he belongs, is subsequently captured by the enemy, is treated as a prisoner of war, and incurs no responsibility for his previous acts of espionage."

    In order to meet the definition of spying, soldiers must discard their own military uniforms or proper insignias and put on disguises (such as civilian clothes, enemy uniforms, etc) so the enemy won't recognize who they actually are while infiltrating the military lines of the enemy in order to gather information about the enemy with the intention of relaying that information to their own military or to attack legitimate military installations or infrastructure targets (railroads, bridges, munition plants, etc). However, if spies are caught behind enemy lines, they can be tried and punished which includes execution. Spies generally caused more damage to the enemy than an average soldier in the battlefield so the captors have every right to impose punishment on spies in order to discourage others from following the same path. If they were captured behind enemy lines while wearing their own military uniforms or proper insignias, they are not considered spies, no different than armed forces (who always wear their own military uniforms) invading enemy territory.

    However, if spies successfully avoided capture behind enemy lines, armed with the information about the enemy or not or after succeeded in destroying legitimate military installations or infrastructure targets or not, and returned to their own military, liability to punishment is terminated. If captured as lawful combatants, they cannot be punished for their previous acts of espionage and must be treated as prisoners of war.

    Spies in wartime can be still exchanged but has less chances of being released back to their own country than in peacetime.

    Note when I say "attack legitimate military installations or infrastructure targets", it means that spies are allowed to attack these targets, not the members of the enemy armed forces. Contrary to popular belief, it is actually illegal to kill enemy combatants while still wearing a disguise. If you blow up military installations which incidentally but unavoidably killed enemy combatants or civilian munitions workers inside, that might be perfectly acceptable. If you kill enemy combatants out in the open field or in combat or while inside a building occupied by enemy combatants without any means of self-defense, you could be charged with war crimes and could be captured and tried at any time and at any place whether during or after the war.

    Article 23 of the 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare provides:

    "In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden....(b) To kill or wound treacherously individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army....(f) To make improper use of a flag of truce, of the national flag, or of the military insignia and military uniform of the enemy, as well as the distinctive badges of the Geneva Convention".

    Treachery is bad but killing enemy combatants while wearing a disguise goes too far. A spy who deliberately shot and killed enemy combatants behind enemy lines meets the definition of "treacherous killing of enemy combatants" and/or "improper use of a disguise" and could be charged with war crimes and punished for improper use of enemy uniforms as well as the distinctive badges of the Geneva Convention. A soldier who fights enemy combatants in enemy uniforms or wearing protected symbols in the battlefield could be tried and punished for that same offense. Each combatant from different nations must wear their own military uniforms or proper insignia in order to distinguish between friend and foe. Doing so would have invite retribution against civilians or enemy forces against their own comrades (although a spy would fit in the same situation, he is not a war criminal as long he doesn't kill enemy combatants while wearing a disguise though either way, he can be tried and punished).

    Source(s): The 1907 Hague Convention on Land Warfare provoisions:
  • Frank
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    1. The country that catches them makes a big stink about it.

    2. The spy is tried and imprisoned.

    3. The two countries work out a deal and exchange spies that have been caught.

  • 7 years ago

    Most countries maintain the right to kill them. that includes us. We usually try to trade them for something before we kill them though. Quite often that works. We trade spies and both go home and get desk or training jobs since their cover is blown.

  • 7 years ago

    They are put in prison and then exchanged for the other sides spys on a future date. Unless they have diplomatic immunity then they are expelled. Assuming you mean caught and arrested.

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  • M
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    shot, hung, tortured, traded

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    absolutely nothing judging by US policy

  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    a noose!

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