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Commentary - Art. 97. Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section IV : Regulations for the treatment of internees #Chapter VI : Personal property and financial resources
    ARTICLE 97. -- VALUABLES AND PERSONAL EFFECTS (1)


    [p.420] PARAGRAPH 1. -- RESPECT FOR PROPERTY

    Articles of personal use do not merely comprise clothes, linen, blankets and toilet requisites, but also books, perhaps a portable typewriter, medical supplies or anything, speaking generally, which is used in daily life. Cameras should no doubt be regarded as an exception, because of the Detaining Power's special interest in removing anything which might promote espionage or perhaps be used for unfavourable propaganda. This right of the internees to keep their personal property once again emphasizes the fact that internment is merely a security measure and must affect personal rights and privileges as little as possible.
    The Detaining Power is free, however, to protect itself against efforts to put the resources retained by the internees -- and above all their financial resources -- to a use prejudicial to its interests. The Detaining Power wishes to prevent escapes and must consequently take away from the detained persons all possibility of bribing their guards; it must also try to prevent any subversive propaganda and for these reasons it seems reasonable that internees should be deprived of sums of money, cheques, bonds, negotiable belongings and articles of value in their possession at the time of their internment. It is essential, however, that these things should be taken from them in accordance with an established procedure and that the internees should not be liable to be despoiled by the first-comer. The responsibility of the Detaining Power must on the contrary be legally established. To this end the text proposed by the International Committee [p.421] of the Red Cross laid down that articles might not be taken from the internees except by the order of an officer or of a civilian official of equivalent status. That wording was similar to the one referred to in connection with the labour detachments and to the one given in Article 99 dealing with the selection of camp commandants. It is a matter of some regret that this safeguard was not embodied in the text of the Convention and that the Geneva Conference replaced it by a somewhat vague reference to "established procedure". The Rapporteurs of the Committee concerned explained that the object of that wording was to give this text, which concerned civilians, a less military character than the Stockholm Draft, which followed very closely the text relating to prisoners of war (2). The reference in question, vague as it is, originally sprang, it will be remembered, from the Tokyo Draft, which suggested that the Prisoners of War Convention should be considered applicable by analogy to civilian internees, on the understanding that the treatment accorded "should in no case be inferior to that prescribed in the said Convention".
    The detailed receipt referred to at the end of a paragraph is distinct from the account provided for in Article 98 . The receipt will remain in the possession of the internee, while the account will be kept and filed by the detaining authorities. The receipt will serve as a voucher when the accounts are made up, that is at the end of the period of internment.

    PARAGRAPH 2. -- SAFEGUARDS AGAINST THE CONVERSION
    OF CURRENCY

    Sums of money taken from an internee are to be paid into his account. The stipulation is simple enough if the sums in question are in the currency of the country of internment, but if they are in foreign currency, their conversion may be equivalent to confiscation, because of the danger of depreciation which threatens the currency of a country at war; hence the clause safeguarding the internees against such conversion. It must be recognized, however, that the safeguard in question may be rendered illusory by the reservation referring to the "legislation in force in the territory". Past experience has shown, indeed, that exchange controls and other exceptional wartime measures often make conversion into the currency of the country concerned compulsory, such conversion taking place at an arbitrary rate of exchange, often very much below the real value.

    [p.422] PARAGRAPH 3. -- ARTICLES WHICH HAVE A PERSONAL VALUE

    This paragraph is not a separate, independent provision, as its place in the Article might suggest. It is connected with the first paragraph, in which it might well have been incorporated.
    The essential part of the clause is the words "above all". The clause formulates an exception to the right of the Detaining Power to take articles of value from internees; that exception applies to articles which have above all a personal or sentimental value. That means that the importance attached to their possession does not depend on their commercial value, but rather on what they represent in the sentimental sphere. A wedding ring would be one such example -- a plain golden ring which costs little; its sale would not furnish the owner with large resources with which to make preparations for an escape or to take part in subversive propaganda. On the other hand jewels of great commercial value may be taken away, in spite of their sentimental value. It will be for the Detaining Power to judge in all fairness the appropriate course to take. It must be in accordance with the stipulation of paragraph 1 (in accordance with established procedure and against a receipt).
    The paragraph corresponds to a similar provision in the 1949 Prisoners of War Convention (Article 18, para. 3 ). It is based on the general principles of the protection of the human person, as set forth in Articles 27 to 34. It is an application of those principles and aims at ensuring respect for the inner feelings of the internees.

    PARAGRAPH 4. -- THE SEARCHING OF WOMEN

    In the same way, paragraph 4 contains what the Rapporteurs called "a further safeguard in favour of women internees". This is a case of the application of the principle expressed in Article 27, paragraph 2 .

    PARAGRAPH 5. -- WINDING-UP OF ACCOUNTS

    This paragraph must be read in part in conjunction with Article 35 (right to leave the territory), for even when protected persons are repatriated at the end of a war the "established procedure" will probably, in actual fact, cause delays during which the provisions of Article 97 will apply. The case of repatriation may therefore with good reason be considered as similar to that of release, and the procedure for winding up accounts in particular will be the same.
    [p.423] The text of the Article describes that procedure in detail. It stipulates that sums of money, cheques, bonds, and articles of value are to be returned, with the exception of those which the Detaining Power withholds by virtue of the legislation in force in that country. This provision refers especially to banknotes and gold, in the form of coins or in gold bars, which are generally the subject of an official embargo under wartime legislation. The reason for such an embargo in regard to enemy property (and the property of the internees will usually be enemy property) is the Detaining Power's hope of seizing it for reparations when the war ends. Such valuables would then be deducted from the amount of compensation to which the enemy Power had agreed, and the latter -- and not the Detaining Power -- would then be accountable for it to the owner. The rule of respect for private property, laid down in Article 46 of the Hague Regulations, has thus been followed. In order that the internee concerned may receive compensation where applicable, from the
    Power finally responsible, he must be in possession of the detailed receipt which must be issued by the Detaining Power according to the Convention.

    PARAGRAPH 6. -- IDENTITY PAPERS

    Paragraph 6 corresponds to Article 18, paragraph 2 , of the Prisoners of War Convention, which has been introduced since the 1929 Prisoners of War Convention on the basis of experience gained during the Second World War. It was proposed by the International Committee of the Red Cross. When the Detaining Power took away their army books (Army pay book and service record), basing their action on their right to confiscate all military documents, the prisoners of war in question were usually deprived of their only identity paper. Being unable to prove their identity they were liable, especially if they attempted to escape, to be treated as spies and so lose the benefit of their prisoner-of-war status.
    The same reasoning applies to internees. It may be in the interests of the Detaining Power to confiscate certain identity documents (driving licence, for example, to make escape more difficult), but when withdrawing such documents it should on all occasions leave the internee with the means of proving his identity. The internees are accorded two safeguards: (1) a receipt is to be given for any identity document taken away from its owner; (2) an official identity document may possibly be issued by the Detaining Power itself. It might take the form of a duly certified duplicate of the internment card for which provision is made in Article 106 .

    [p.424] PARAGRAPH 7. -- POCKET MONEY

    The final paragraph should make possible the application of Article 87, paragraph 1 , concerning the buying of certain foodstuffs. The Stockholm Draft indicated that the reference was to food, tobacco and toilet requisites. The Diplomatic Conference deleted this, regarding it as a repetition; but it is well to remember the correspondence between the two Articles (3).
    It follows that the amount of money in question will be fairly small. If the Detaining Power considers that it must for security reasons limit very strictly the amount of cash held by the internees, it should provide them with purchase coupons of sufficient value to enable them to make purchases in the canteens it runs.


    Notes: (1) [(1) p.419] This Article corresponds to Article 18 of the
    Third Convention;

    (2) [(1) p.421] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
    Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, p. 839;

    (3) [(1) p.424] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
    Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, p. 839;