ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
Treaties and Documents
1949 Conventions 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.
Art. 60. Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section III : Occupied territories
. -- RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE OCCUPYING POWER (1)
1. ' Continuing responsibility of the Occupying Power '
The Conference insisted that the Occupying Power would continue at all times to be responsible for supplying the population (Articles 55
), in order that relief operations might retain their humanitarian character: relief consignments are not intended to represent the normal source of supply of the country; they are made up of commodities offered for relief purposes and provide something extra for the classes of the population which are in greatest distress.
2. ' Consignments not to be diverted '
The word "divert" must be understood in its broadest sense, as covering a change of destination of any kind, including requisition. Consequently articles sent as relief supplies cannot be requisitioned by the Occupying Power; this represents an exception to Article 55, paragraph 2
, of the Convention, which authorizes the occupation [p.324] authorities to requisition food and medical equipment and supplies in occupied territory under certain circumstances.
There is one exception to the rule, however. It was realized at the Diplomatic Conference that it could not be applied strictly in certain situations (when epidemics stopped in one town and started in another, or when insuperable transport difficulties prevented relief consignments from being sent to the area chosen): under such circumstances it is reasonable to assume that relief consignments might be used on behalf of other persons.
In order to avoid any possibility of abuse, however, three cumulative conditions are laid down: the diversion of the relief consignments must be due to urgent necessity, it must be in the interests of the population of the occupied territory, and it can only take place with the consent of the Protecting Power.
The Protecting Power is mentioned here to prevent the taking of such a serious step from being left to the discretion of the occupation authorities. What is essential is that relief consignments should on no account be diverted for the benefit of the troops, administrative personnel or even the civilian population of the Occupying Power: they must be kept wholly and exclusively for the population of the occupied territory.
The diversion of relief consignments must remain an absolute exception. To invoke the reservation on a large scale would represent a violation of the Convention, whose authors wished to ensure that the intentions of the donors were followed as far as possible.
Notes: (1) [(1) p.323] For the development of this Article, see
' Final Record, ' Vol. I, p. 122; Vol. II-A, pp. 666-670,
749-751, 809, 831-832, 857; Vol. II-B, pp. 153-154, 194,
421; Vol. III, pp. 135, 137;