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Red Cross ranks Game of Thrones war criminals

Rebecca Staudenmaier
April 9, 2019

Game of Thrones is no stranger to violence, but which character has committed the most war crimes so far? The Australian Red Cross analyzed every episode ahead of the final season — and their answer might surprise fans.

Kit Harington as Jon Snow and Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen in a scene from "Game of Thrones"
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/Sky

Torture, inhumane treatment, sexual violence and the use of child soldiers — all appear multiple times throughout the first seven seasons of the wildly popular series, Game of Thrones — and each of these acts can constitute a war crime.

The Australian Red Cross tallied some 103 violations of the laws of war in the HBO series and published and analysis on Tuesday ahead of the April 12 premiere of the show's final season.

The analysis is not only meant to celebrate the show, but also to raise awareness about protecting international humanitarian law and to highlight the vulnerable people caught in armed conflicts across the globe.

*** Spoiler alert for those who have not yet watched Seasons 1 – 7 of Game of Thrones ***

The worst in Westeros:

The Australian Red Cross tallied up each main character's violations and came up with the following ranking for the worst war criminal in Game of Thrones:

  • Ramsay Bolton, one of the most merciless characters in the show, came out on top with 17 war crimes violations, including torture, taking hostages and rape.
  • Daenerys Targaryen, the mother of dragons, came in second place with 15 violations — primarily for using her dragons' fire to "inflict superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering."
  • Roose Bolton, Ramsay's father, came in third with eight violations including torture and willful killing — particularly for his key role in orchestrating the infamous Red Wedding.
  • Jon Snow and the Night King tied for fourth place with six violations each — both for the use of child soldiers. The Night King also racked up violations for slavery and attacking religious or cultural objects.

But what about Joffrey?

Those who are familiar with the show, and the series of books by George R. R. Martin that the show is based on, are surely wondering how some of the other major characters fared in the rankings.

Despite being renowned for his cruelty in the early seasons, Joffrey Baratheon logged only three violations for torture and willfully killing injured soldiers or prisoners.

His mother, Cersei Lannister, also only wracked up three violations for violations including hostage-taking and perfidy, or breaking a promise to act in good faith. The Australian Red Cross noted that Cersei's more infamous violent acts fell outside the scope of armed conflict, including killing hundreds of people by blowing up a house of worship in King's Landing.

The man behind the masks of Game of Thrones

How did they analyze the show?

The Australian Red Cross enlisted volunteers, who are experts in international humanitarian law, to watch every episode in the first seven seasons of Game of Thrones.

The characters' actions only counted as war crimes violations if they occurred during armed conflict. The volunteers also noted examples of exceptional violence that happened outside an armed conflict, but these did not count towards their final war crimes score.

What constitutes a war crime?

International humanitarian law, which is outlined in the Geneva Conventions, regulates the conduct of war. For example, the laws forbid torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners of war and civilians.

It also states that hospitals, aid workers are to be protected, as well as cultural and religious property. The laws also limit weapons to avoid unnecessary suffering.

"While our analysis sits firmly in the realms of fun-fiction the laws of war are serious business. Every day they protect the lives of people who are not, or are no longer, part of a conflict — including civilians, wounded soldiers and prisoners," the Australian Red Cross said in a statement.

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