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Prisoners of war and detainees

International humanitarian law - Prisoners and detainees

The third Geneva Convention provides a wide range of protection for prisoners of war. It defines their rights and sets down detailed rules for their treatment and eventual release. International humanitarian law (IHL) also protects other persons deprived of liberty as a result of armed conflict. Read full overview


  • Military uniforms and the law of war

    The author first studies the wearing and the functions of military uniforms throughout history to then shed light on the legal issues raised. Discussing the legal framework of the use of uniforms and its ramifications in more detail, he contributes to the debates on the consequences of the lack of wearing a military uniform in contemporary armed conflicts, and the link with the granting of prisoner of war status to members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict failing to wear uniforms in combat.

    31-03-2004 | International Review of the Red Cross | Toni Pfanner

  • Doubtful prisoner-of-war status

    This article explores how doubt over prisoner-of-war status may arise and how issues relating to the determination of status should be resolved according to the Third Geneva Convention. In this context, a State's obligations in cases of "doubtful" status are examined, as are the minimal requirements of a "competent tribunal".

    30-09-2002 | International Review of the Red Cross | Yasmin Naqvi

  • The legal situation of "unlawful/unprivileged combatants"

    Given that people unlawfully taking part in hostilities are not entitled to protection under the Third Geneva Convention relative to prisoners of war, the author focuses on the controversially debated question of whether "unlawful combatants" fall into the personal scope of application of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.

    31-03-2003 | International Review of the Red Cross | Knut Dörmann

  • Procedural principles and safeguards for internment/administrative detention in armed conflict and other situations of violence

    The commentary to the procedural principles and safeguards outlined in this text mentions the different legal sources governing deprivation of liberty for security reasons in international armed conflicts, non-international armed conflicts and other situations of violence.

    30-06-2005 | International Review of the Red Cross | Jelena Pejic

Publications More publications

  • Health care in detention posters

    The Health Care in Detention posters seek to bolster respect for medical ethics in places of detention. Each poster represents a major ethical issue affecting detainees. The posters cover medical confidentiality, treating detainees first and foremost as patients, providing health care on the basis of need, and treating detainees without discrimination. They are intended for medical and prison staff, government and the general public.

  • Guidelines for investigating deaths in custody

    These Guidelines, the first of their kind, provide guidance to detaining authorities, investigating authorities, humanitarian agencies and others on preventing deaths in custody. They reflect international law, policy and best practice and offer a practical tool for both practitioners and decision-makers.