ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
Treaties and Documents
Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
. -- ESSENTIAL RULES: III. DELAY IN EXECUTION OF
THE DEATH PENALTY
While the case of prisoners of war sentenced to a mild penalty is usually studied and settled on the spot by the representatives of the Protecting Power, that of prisoners liable to the death penalty is more often referred for study to the country of origin, which can then make diplomatic representations with a view to obtaining a reduction of sentence. In those circumstances the drafters of the new Convention considered that the time-limit of three months, specified in Article 66, paragraph 2
, of the 1929 Convention, was not sufficient and increased it to six months.
In order to avoid any misunderstanding, the Article states exactly how the period is to be computed: it runs from the date when the Protecting Power receives the detailed communication, that is to say, from the date on which the communication is delivered to the address indicated by the Protecting Power for this purpose. The Convention does not, however, state how the communication must be made and this will depend on the procedural laws of the Detaining Power. It will be in the interest of the latter to take all proper precautions (registered letter, writ, etc.) in order to be able to prove that the communication was actually received by the Protecting Power.
The minimum period of six months may obviously be extended by the Detaining Power but in no case may it be reduced if execution of the death penalty is suspended after the final judgment has been notified to the Protecting Power; this time-limit is a final guarantee against a judgment based on the circumstances of the moment, too often affected by emotional considerations. During that time, the Protecting Power will be able to intercede in behalf of the condemned person either in the name of the Power on which he depends or of its own accord. Article 107
below specifies the contents of the communication.