Paul Lukasiak writes:
The key to understanding the Geneva Conventions is that they were designed to protect everyone placed under the authority of an "enemy" during wartime. Absent the findings of a competent tribunal that someone had committed war (or other) crimes, everyone had to be treated as either a POW or a "non-combatant".
The granting of POW status is not a "benefit" under the conventions -- it is designed to enumerate (and thereby restrict) the rights of captured combatants (as opposed to captured non-combatants). In other words, there are rights granted to captured non-combatants that are far greater than those granted to combatants. The definitions for "POW status" deliniate whom a capturer can provide the limited rights afforded to combatant --- and the rights afforded "POWs" are the minimum rights granted under the Conventions.