1989's Casualties of War relates the true story of Phan Thi Mao, a Vietnamese woman who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by American soldiers. The film, directed by Brian De Palma (Scarface, The Untouchables), tells her story and that of PFC Eriksson, the soldier who refused to participate in the war crimes perpetrated against her by his squad. Casualties of War will be screened at 4pm Thursday, Nov. 12, at the Red Cross, as this month's installment of the International Humanitarian Law film series.
The film's nightmarish depiction of wartime sexual atrocities, as well as its exploration of Eriksson's moral conflict between decency and loyalty, confronts the audience with the dehumanization of vulnerable populations during combat. Casualties of War shows how morality can degrade in times of war, bringing up questions about the protection of humanity in a war zone, and the duty of both civilians and combatants to uphold International Humanitarian Law.
Although sexual violence is a violation of both International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention, rape remains a dishearteningly common facet of armed conflict. Nevertheless, the International Committee of the Red Cross works toward a stated goal of the elimination of such war crimes. The ICRC approaches wartime sexual violence with a comprehensive set of services, including assistance, protection and prevention. Globally, the ICRC works with victims of wartime sexual violence to provide economic support, shelter, food, household goods and transportation to medical and psychological care.
The film screening will be followed by a discussion of the film's themes and the implications of humanitarian law in the use of sexual violence during armed conflict. Attendees who come to this month's installment of the IHL film series and two others between November and April 2016 are eligible to receive a free Red Cross First Aid Kit.