ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
  • Print page
Commentary - Art. 82. Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section IV : Regulations for the treatment of internees #Chapter I : General provisions
    ARTICLE 82. -- GROUPING OF INTERNEES


    In view of the fact that conflicts may last for years, the morale of the internees becomes of great importance. It is a humanitarian [p.380] duty to alleviate to the greatest possible extent the effect of internment on the mind and spirits of the internees.
    The information collected concerning conditions of internment during the Second World War led the experts convened by the International Committee of the Red Cross from 1947 onwards, cordially to support the idea of including in the Draft Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, a clause dealing with this aspect of the problem. This clause served as a basis for the negotiators in Geneva in 1949, who made it more precise and added several items.

    PARAGRAPH 1. -- GROUPING OF INTERNEES

    This paragraph corresponds to paragraph 3 of Article 22 of the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. It states, but in less mandatory form, the principle that internees should be grouped, adding the words "as far as possible" which do not occur in the Prisoners of War Convention. Indeed, prisoners of war generally fall into groups of the same nationality as a natural consequence of being captured together and grouping can be organized to a certain extent automatically. The grouping of civilians, on the other hand, who are taken into custody separately and sometimes coming from places distant from one another, presents some difficulties. It is better in certain cases to leave the internees near their families rather than to send them to a distance, in order to reunite them with persons of the same language and nationality. It is for this reason that Article 82 of the Fourth Convention is not mandatory.
    The moral solidarity which unites the citizens of a particular country takes precedence over the differences which may exist between them, particularly as regards language. For this reason, it is stated clearly that in spite of the rule that internees should be grouped according to language, which occurs in the first sentence, people from the same country but of different languages may be grouped together. Even this does not go so far as some delegations suggested: they proposed that it should be obligatory to group together all internees from a particular country.

    PARAGRAPHS 2 AND 3. -- FAMILY LIFE

    The experience of the Second World War showed that internment was far less difficult to bear whenever internees could be grouped together in families. In India, Rhodesia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika, [p.381] Eritrea and France (at Vittel), such groups were successfully organized and the morale of the internees was better in those places than in other places of internment. Children benefited from the presence of their parents and were able to attend the school set up inside the camp. It is to the results of this experience which paragraphs 2 and 3 try to give permanent form in accordance with the recommendations of the experts.
    The text makes it clear that exceptions to this rule may result from the need to give medical treatment or to enforce the penal provisions of Chapter IX, but adds that the separation in these cases must only be temporary.
    The report of the Third Committee indicates that the addition of the words "without parental care" is intended to show that if only one of the parents is interned, he or she would not have the right, under the Convention, to demand the internment of a child being cared for by the other parent. On the other hand, the father and mother would have the right to demand such internment if they were interned together. It had been proposed that only children under sixteen years of age should be interned at the request of their father or mother, but since the text does not make it strictly obligatory to grant such a parental request, it was not thought necessary to add this detail. It is for the Detaining Power to assess each case fairly, paying particular attention to the age of the child.
    Finally, paragraph 3 takes into consideration a suggestion by the International Committee of the Red Cross that family camps should be set up "wherever possible", following the example of an internment camp in India, where each family had a separate bungalow. The discussions of the experts of 1947 made it quite clear that what was intended was a real family life for the internees and not the establishment of mixed camps where men and women are both interned, or even less, the establishment of contiguous camps where men and women meet for several hours a day and are then sent back to their own camps.
    This provision establishes a system which is more favourable than that applicable to prisoners of war, but the difference is justified, since prisoners have taken up arms against the Detaining Power before capture and, furthermore, were already separated from their families and unable to engage in their customary occupations. The case of internees is completely different. In their case there is not even a presumption of aggressive feelings. They are detained simply as a precaution. It is therefore necessary to ease the rigours of internment, particularly where such a course is possible, by the maintenance of family life.