ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
  • Print page
Commentary - Art. 58. Part III : Captivity #Section IV : Financial resources of prisoners of war
    ARTICLE 58. -- READY MONEY


    [p.300] Article 24 of the 1929 Convention contained a rule similar to that which appears in the first paragraph of the present Article. During the Second World War, however, that rule was not applied in full, since certain Powers authorized prisoners to retain only "camp money", which in principle restricted their purchases to what was available in the canteens. With the permission of the Detaining Power, however, this "camp money" could be converted either into local currency for purchases from local stores, or into foreign currency for transmission to next of kin.
    The purpose of these measures was to prevent prisoners from having in their possession sums of money which might have facilitated escape (1).

    PARAGRAPH 1. -- POCKET MONEY AND MONEY CREDITED TO
    THE ACCOUNT OF PRISONERS OF WAR

    1. ' First sentence. -- Pocket money '

    At the time of the Stockholm Conference it was proposed that the amount of cash which prisoners of war might retain in their possession should depend on the agreement of the Protecting Power and not on any special agreement between belligerents; it was felt that such a course would facilitate and hasten the determination of the said amount (2). This proposal was opposed, however, during the 1949 [p.301] Diplomatic Conference, as experience had shown that a considerable time often elapsed before Protecting Powers functioned effectively. A literal interpretation of the Convention would have permitted the Detaining Power to leave the prisoners without any ready money at all, pending an agreement with the Protecting Power (3). Finally, the Italian Delegation proposed a compromise solution, which was adopted by the Conference: the Detaining Power would be authorized to fix a maximum amount, subject to later confirmation by the Protecting Power (4).
    The money is to be "in cash or in any similar form", that is to say, in camp money, as we have already mentioned.
    As for the amount, on the basis of Article 60 one might well consider that it should not be less than the amount of the monthly advance of pay which the Detaining Power is required to grant to each prisoner of war.

    2. ' Second sentence. -- Excess '

    This provision should be read together with Article 59 although, in fact, the latter refers only to cash taken from prisoners of war at the time of capture.
    The excess may consist of cash in the possession of prisoners of war at the time of their capture which will be withdrawn in accordance with Article 18, paragraph 4 , of money due to prisoners of war by the Detaining Power as working pay (Article 62 ) or advances of pay (Article 60 ), or again of sums of money sent to the prisoner by his Government or his family (supplementary pay, Article 61 , transfer of funds, Article 63 ).
    The excess must be placed to the account of the prisoners of war concerned in accordance with the provisions of Articles 64 and 65 and -- a very important condition -- may not be converted into any other currency without their consent; this latter stipulation was included with a view to possible fluctuations in exchange rates.
    At the 1949 Diplomatic Conference, one delegation pointed out that there was no provision for punishment if prisoners retained sums of money in excess of the maximum allowed (2). One may reply that in accordance with the general rules set forth in Article 82 , prisoners of [p.302] war are subject to the laws, regulations and orders in force in the armed forces of the Detaining Power. If prisoners had in their possession excessively large sums of money, they would therefore be liable to the penalties applicable in such cases to members of the armed forces of the Detaining Power. In the event that no such penalty was provided, it would be for the Detaining Power to introduce regulations applicable only to prisoners of war but in that case, pursuant to Article 82, paragraph 2 , such regulations could entail "disciplinary" punishment only.

    PARAGRAPH 2. -- PAYMENTS MADE OUTSIDE THE CAMP

    The text presented to the Stockholm Conference was less liberal since it provided that any payments outside the camp should be made not by prisoners of war but by the camp authorities (5).
    Prisoners of war are allowed to have pocket money so that they can make purchases at the canteen, but members of labour detachments do not always have access to a canteen. They must therefore be able to purchase goods in daily use from local tradespeople. Such transactions would naturally be very difficult if the camp administration did not allow prisoners of war to make payment themselves for the services or commodities which they receive. The present paragraph therefore applies particularly to current expenditure when for any reason prisoners of war do not have the facilities available inside the camp.
    It may be, however, that prisoners have to meet expenses outside the camp which exceed the funds normally available to them, for instance in the case of legal consultations (Article 77 ), collective purchases of equipment for sports and recreation purposes, etc. Under the present paragraph, the Detaining Power may in such cases make payment and debit the account of the prisoners concerned accordingly. This intervention by the camp administration will in fact constitute a safeguard and a check, to the advantage of both the prisoners of war and the local suppliers.


    * (1) [(1) p.300] See BRETONNI RE op. cit., p. 154. See also
    ' XVIIth International Red Cross Conference, Draft Revised
    or New Conventions for the Protection of War Victims, ' p.
    87, and ' Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of
    Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A. Sub-Committee of Financial
    Experts of Committee II, p. 529;

    (2) [(2) p.300] See ' XVIIth International Red Cross
    Conference, Draft Revised or New Conventions for the
    Protection of War Victims, ' p. 87;

    (3) [(1) p.301] For the discussion, see ' Final Record of the
    Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, pp.
    529-530;

    (4) [(2) p.301] Ibid., p. 530;

    (5) [(1) p.302] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
    Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, p. 530;