Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
Treaties and Documents
Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
-- SPIRITUAL ASSISTANCE (1)
This Article was inserted in the Convention by the Diplomatic Conference of 1949. It is very clearly worded and calls for little comment.
In ensuring that religious assistance may continue to be given and that books and other articles required for religious needs may be distributed, it insists on respect being shown for religious practices. This is a fitting addition to the earlier provisions dealing with food, health and hygiene; the spiritual needs of the population are taken into consideration in the same way as the material needs.
Should the question of the nationality of ministers of religion be raised here? As was seen, Article 50
lays down that the education and instruction of orphans are, if possible, to be entrusted to "persons of their own nationality". The same arguments undoubtedly hold good so far as religious needs are concerned, and yet there is no similar clause here, the reason being that in occupied territory there are always enough ministers of the same nationality to meet the spiritual needs of persons of their religion, except in the very special case of the religion of minorities among the population. There would therefore be no justification for the Occupying Power imposing ministers of religion of its own nationality. It should be noted, however, that religious assistance must in no case serve as a pretext for political agitation against the Occupying Power. Should occasion arise, the Occupying Power would be entitled to take appropriate action, since the provision under discussion authorizes only spiritual assistance, and not activities which
have nothing to do with religion.
[p.319] It will be remembered that Article 38 (3)
contains a similar provision in favour of civilians in the territory of a Party to the conflict. The two clauses are merely cases of the application of the basic principle proclaimed in Article 27
, which provides a general safeguard for the "religious convictions and practices" of all persons protected by the Convention.
Notes: (1) [(2) p.318] For the origin of the Article, see ' Final
Record, ' Vol. II-A, pp. 748, 831 Vol. II-B, p. 421;