As a surprise to absolutely no one who has watched the series, Game of Thrones is overflowing not only with depictions of violence but also with what humanitarian organisations consider as war crimes.
Volunteer lawyers from the Australian Red Cross re-watched and reviewed the entire series to identify how many war crimes were committed on the hit HBO television series watched by millions of people all over the world. The Red Cross lawyers intend to educate viewers regarding real-life instances of war crimes and their subsequent consequences.
After binge-watching the seven seasons, the lawyers identified 103 violations of international humanitarian law (IHL) throughout the series which makes an average of one-and-a-half war crimes per episode. IHL is implemented during armed conflict, but the lawyers also identified what they considered to be “egregious conduct” by the show’s characters.
One reason why fans love the show is its lack of conventional “heroes,” and as the findings from the Red Cross show, even seemingly good characters are capable of atrocious crimes.
Daenerys Targaryen, the literal mother of dragons, is found guilty of 15 violations of IHL. Even though she has good intentions, Daenerys used methods that caused “superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering” when she unleashed her dragons on enemy soldiers. Attacking civilians is also a war crime, but since Daenerys does not always have control over her dragons, the lawyers considered it a grey area. Drogon, one of the dragons, mistook a shepherd’s young daughter for lunch, much to the shame and chagrin of Daenerys. Daenarys might also be considered by some fans to have a “white saviour complex” in her imperial takeover of Mereen.
While some may cheer for the rightful heir of the Seven Kingdoms, Jon Snow is also found to be guilty of six violations of IHL, particularly for “using child soldiers” and for “torture, cruel or inhuman treatment.” IHL also protects “people who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities” which includes prisoners of war. Jon allowed the young boy Olly to join his army, and he also beat Ramsay Bolton to a pulp. The sadistic Ramsay Bolton, who topped the list with 17 violations, is strangely enough both a perpetrator and victim of war crimes.
Tyrion Lannister, another fan favourite, is included in the list with four violations such as “use of means or methods of warfare,” “use of incendiary weapons,” “sexual violence,” and “perfidy.” Tyrion was the mastermind behind the Battle of Blackwater in which King’s Landing used wildfire, a weapon of mass destruction, against enemy soldiers.
The Stark sisters, Sansa and Arya, are guilty of two counts each, specifically “passing judicial sentence/execution without previous judgment of a regularly constituted court.” Sansa, who was a victim of marital rape and violence by Ramsay Bolton, allowed her tormentor to be eaten by dogs.
The Red Cross ranked the following characters who committed the most war crimes from Seasons 1 to 7:
- Ramsay Bolton (17 violations)
- Daenerys Targaryen (15 violations)
- Roose Bolton (8 violations)
- The Night King (6 violations)
- Sons of the Harpy (6 violations)
- Jon Snow (6 violations)
- Euron Greyjoy (5 violations)
- Tywin Lannister (4 violations)
- Tyrion Lannister (4 violations)
- Joffrey Baratheon (3 violations)
- Mance Rayder (3 violations)
- Cersei Lannister (3 violations)
- Khal Drogo (3 violations)
- Jaime Lannister (2 violations)
- Catelyn Stark (2 violations)
- Sansa Stark (2 violations)
- Arya Stark (2 violations)
- Theon Greyjoy (2 violations)
- Robb Stark (1 violation)
- Stannis Baratheon (1 violation)
- Yara Greyjoy (1 violation)
- Lord Varys (1 violation)
- Brienne of Tarth (1 violation)
— Australian Red Cross (@RedCrossAU) April 10, 2019
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