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.
[p.382] ARTICLE 83
. -- LOCATION OF PLACES OF INTERNMENT.
MARKING OF CAMPS
PARAGRAPH 1. -- CHOICE OF SITE
This paragraph did not occur in the text of the corresponding Article in the Stockholm Draft, because its substance had already been embodied in a special Article, applicable to all protected persons and worded as follows: "No protected person may at any time be sent into or retained in an area particularly exposed, nor may his presence be used to protect certain points or certain areas against military operations." The Diplomatic Conference preferred to delete this draft Article and to divide it into two parts. The prohibition on using the presence of protected persons to render certain points or areas immune from military operations is stated in Article 28
, whereas the obligation, where possible, to remove non-combatants from areas exposed to the dangers of war concerns the civilian population both in the territory of a party to the conflict (Article 38, para. 4
) and in the occupied territory (Article 49, para. 5
). The internees have been treated here by analogy with the prisoners of war. Since the obligation to place prisoners of war outside
danger areas had already been set forth in the 1929 Geneva Conventions (1) it was all the more necessary to give the benefit of a similar clause to civilians detained as a mere precautionary measure.
[p.383] PARAGRAPH 2. -- NOTIFICATION OF PLACES OF INTERNMENT
The principle of notifying places of internment was also accepted for prisoners of war (Third Convention, Article 23, paragraph 3
) and represents an important step forward.
During the Second World War, the International Committee of the Red Cross tried in vain to persuade the belligerents to exchange information on the geographical position of prisoner-of-war camps. It did succeed, however, in some cases, with regard to civilian internment camps (2).
PARAGRAPH 3. -- MARKING OF INTERNMENT CAMPS
The marking of camps is intended to protect internees against bombing. It will be seen that the text of paragraph 3 refers to internment ' camps ' whereas the previous paragraph refers to ' places ' of internment. This distinction, writes the Rapporteur of the Co-ordination Committee (3), is intentional, for it was regarded as unreasonable to require the marking, for example, of places where internees are kept merely in temporary custody pending transfer to a place of permanent internment, or the marking of hospitals or institutions simply because internees are being treated there.
At the very beginning of hostilities during the Second World War, the International Committee of the Red Cross appealed to belligerents to mark their prisoner-of-war camps to protect them against bombing. Fearing that this would provide landmarks for the enemy air force, the Powers rejected the appeal (4). However, prisoners adopted the habit of displaying markings during the day consisting of large panels bearing the letters PG or PW. This method was approved by the Diplomatic Conference. It is, however, subject to an important reservation drafted in the same way in the case of prisoners of war and of civilian internees: "whenever military considerations permit". This means that in the case of civilian internment camps, the daytime marking by means of the letters IC could be discontinued if the Detaining Power feared, for example, a parachute drop of arms to help the internees to revolt.
[p.384] The stipulation that no place other than an internment camp shall be marked as such is of prime importance. If this means of marking could be used for other purposes it would lose all its protective value.
Notes: (1) [(1) p.382] Convention of July 27, 1929, Article 9, para.
(2) [(1) p.383] See ' Report of the International Committee of
the Red Cross on its activities ' during the Second World
War, Vol. I, pp. 306-308;
(3) [(2) p.383] Mr. Haksar (India), see ' Final Record ', Vol.
II-A, p. 836;
(4) [(3) p.383] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949 ', Vol. II-A, p. 254;