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Who is Game of Thrones worst war criminal?

Nerd alert: to celebrate the launch of the eighth and final season of Games of Thrones we’ve analysed every episode of the last seven seasons to find the show’s worst war criminal.

Over six weeks, and with enough popcorn to feed a tiny Westeros army, a team of Australian Red Cross volunteers, all experts in the laws of war, watched the 67 GoT episodes aired to date. Afterwards, they crunched the numbers and cross-referenced their spreadsheets, to find the worst perpetrators. Tongues firmly in their cheeks of course.

Fans of this pop-culture TV series phenomenon certainly know there’s no shortage of gruesome fictional crimes – from the use of dragons to rain fire down on people to the conscription of child soldiers – and a litany of bad guys to ponder. Our dedicated volunteers calculated there had been a gob-smacking 103 violations of the laws of war over the seven seasons.

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.

They forbid acts like torture and inhuman treatment; protect hospitals, aid workers and cultural property; and limit weapons and tactics to avoid unnecessary suffering. Also known as international humanitarian (IHL) they’re laid out in the Geneva Conventions, which have been signed by every country on earth, and other international treaties. Red Cross has a legal mandate to promote and protect these laws.

So who is the worst war criminal with a massive 17 serious violations? Joffrey was always a nasty lad? And Cersei is surely not one for the rules? And how does hero-to-many, Jon Snow, rate?

Australian Red Cross would like to extend a huge thank-you to Nicole Urban (Chair, IHL Advisory Committee in NSW) and Hollie Johnston (IHL Adviser) for coordinating this project and providing the final data analysis.

Thanks also to the dedicated volunteers drawn from our IHL Advisory Committee networks across the country who sat down with their popcorn, foxtel subscriptions and spreadsheets over the past six weeks: Monique Cormier, Shireen Daft, Catherine Gleeson, Keilin Anderson, Sharon Edington, Sarah Ireland, Lori Vullings, Mia Tam, Rachel Routley, Thamilini Guna and Maanpreet Kaur.

Ramsay Bolton’s violations:

  • Torture, cruel or inhuman treatment (x 6)
  • Perfidy (x 4)
  • Taking hostages
  • Wilful killing of those who are hors de combat, such as injured soldiers or prisoners (x 2)
  • Use of means or methods of warfare that inflict superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering
  • Sexual violence, including rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and enforced pregnancy (x 2)
  • Making civilians not taking direct part in hostilities the object of attack

Daenerys Targaryen’s violations:

  • Use of means or methods of warfare that inflict superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, i.e. dragon fire (x 6)
  • Passing judicial sentence/execution without previous judgement of a regularly constituted court (x 6)
  • Torture, cruel or inhuman treatment
  • Making civilian objects the object of attack
  • Declaring no quarter

Daenerys also showed compliance with IHL, including with the protection of civilians and targeting only military objectives in some cases.

Roose Bolton’s violations:

  • Torture, cruel or inhuman treatment (x 3)
  • Sexual violence
  • Wilful killing of those not participating in hostilities
  • Perfidy
  • Wilful killing of those who are hors de combat
  • Use of means or methods of warfare that inflict superfluous injury or unnecessary killing

Roose also showed IHL compliance by providing adequate care to detainees/prisoners of war.

Night King’s violations:

  • Slavery
  • Use of child soldiers (x 2)
  • Making civilians not taking direct part in hostilities the object of attack
  • Making religious or cultural objects the object of attack
  • Use of incendiary weapons against civilian objects

Sons of the Harpy’s (Mereen) violations:

  • Wilful killing of those who are hors de combat
  • Wilful killing of those who are not participating in hostilities
  • Slavery
  • Indiscriminate attack causing damage to civilian objects
  • Indiscriminate attack causing death or injury to civilians
  • Making civilians not taking direct part in hostilities the object of attack

Jon Snow’s violations:

  • The use of child soldiers (x 4)
  • Torture, cruel or inhuman treatment (x 2)

He also showed IHL compliance including the protection of civilians and provision of adequate are to detainees/prisoners of war.

Euron Greyjoy’s violations:

  • Torture, cruel or inhuman treatment (x 2)
  • Wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health of a protected person or those who are hors de combat
  • Pillage
  • Taking hostages

A further example of conduct of note by Euron falling outside the scope of armed conflict is when he kills his brother by pushing him off a rope bridge.

Walder Frey’s violations:

  • Wilful killing of those not participating in hostilities
  • Perfidy
  • Wilful killing of those who are hors de combat
  • Use of means or methods of warfare that inflict superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering
  • Taking hostages

Tywin Lannister’s violations:

  • Slavery
  • Make civilians not taking direct part in hostilities the object of attack
  • Wilful killing of those who are hors de combat
  • Wilful killing of those not participating in hostilities

Twyin also demonstrates IHL compliance by providing adequate care to detainees/prisoners of war. Other conduct of note outside the scope of armed conflict includes attacks on civilians.

Tyrion Lannister’s violations:

  • Use of means or methods of warfare that inflict superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering
  • Use of incendiary weapons against civilians, civilian objects, forest or other plant cover
  • Sexual violence
  • Perfidy

Despite his crimes, Tyrion is all about redemption and perhaps holds the record for lives saved. He deserves the credit for talking the Mother of Dragons out of indiscriminately releasing dragon fire on Kings Landing – saving the lives of combatants and a million civilians.

On the other side of the Game of Thrones ledger is Robb Stark, the last and ill-fated King in the North, who has done the most to uphold the laws of war. Well, sort of, as far as that sort of thing goes in Westeros.

His conduct on the battlefield includes taking hostages but on the flipside he provided adequate care to detainees/prisoners of war and targeted only combatants. He also consistently provided impartial medical assistance to wounded soldiers on all sides of the conflict. Yes, that’s one of the laws of war, no matter what side you’re on if you’re a wounded soldier you’re entitled to medical assistance. Nice one Robb.

But we’re not done quite yet.

Our volunteers will be watching all episodes of the eighth season and we’ll be sharing their thoughts on social media. Our popcorn supply is refreshed and our spreadsheets are ready. Bring it on.

Read our full analysis so far, including the violation and compliance lowdown on 13 other characters.

International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement works every day to educate people all over the world about the life saving laws of war.

And, in case you were wondering, HBO and Game of Thrones’ Australia and other international distribution partners were not involved in this analysis. Just call us big nerds and fans of the show.

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