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.
. -- SEPARATE INTERNMENT
The importance of this Article should be emphasized. It corresponds to Article 16 of the Tokyo Draft, which restricts itself to stating that civilian internment camps should be separate from internment camps for prisoners of war, in accordance with the fundamental distinction in humanitarian law between combatants and non-combatants. As suggested by the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Stockholm Draft, the Diplomatic Conference of 1949 went further and accepted the idea that political prisoners should be kept separate from offenders against ordinary law. It is a matter of congratulation that this principle has been proclaimed (1).
The result is that neither prisons nor penal establishments could be used as places of internment.
This provision shows once more that the detention of internees is quite different in character from that of prisoners of war or common criminals. Internment is simply a precautionary measure and should not be confused with the penalty of imprisonment.
Notes: (1) [(1) p.384] This idea should be kept in sight for the
development of humanitarian law. Obviously, in view of
what was said in the commentary on Article 79, no
provision of this Convention can be applied directly or by
analogy to the relations between a government and those of
its nationals interned for political. reasons, so long as
in the country in question no struggle is taking place
which would enable the application of the provisions of
Article 3 concerning civil wars. But, as Professor
Castberg, a member of the Norwegian delegation to the
Diplomatic Conference pointed out, quoting a legal opinion
which the Norwegian Red Cross had communicated to the
International Committee of the Red Cross, there is reason
to hope that every Power bound by the Convention and
pledged to apply, in conformity with international law,
certain well defined and deeply humanitarian measures for
the treatment of prisoners of enemy nationality, will wish
to treat its own citizens, interned for security reasons,
in exactly the same way. This would be an extra-judicial
consequence of Article 84, and could bring about an
evolution in some aspects of municipal law in accordance
with the same humanitarian principles as those which have
led to this development of international law;