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.
[p.154] ARTICLE 16
. -- EQUALITY OF TREATMENT
This Article contains a statement of the principle that all prisoners of war are to receive the same standard of treatment, with a further clause of non-discrimination, but subject to the special provisions expressly laid down in the Convention. The prohibition of discrimination is not in fact incompatible with certain differentiation in treatment for which specific provision is made in various Articles of the Convention. Such differentiation may be based on rank (Articles 39, paras. 2 and 3
, 49, paras. 2 and 3
, 89, para. 2
; 97, para. 3
; 98, para. 2
), sex (Articles 14, para. 2
, para. 4
; 29, para. 2
; 49, para. 1
; 88, paras. 2 and 3
; 97, para. 4
; 108, para. 2
), aptitude for work (Articles 49
), age (Articles 49, para. 1
) or state of health (Articles 30
, 49, para. 1
; 55, para. 2
; 92, para. 3
; 98, para. 4
; 108, para. 3
). The wording excludes differentiation only when it is of an adverse nature. Absolute equality might easily become injustice if applied without regard to considerations such as state of
health, age, sex, rank or professional aptitude. The principle of equality in the Convention must therefore be understood in this way which admits such differentiation (1).
It is clear from the wording of the provision that the list of various criteria which it contains is only by way of example; one might add many more criteria -- birth, financial circumstances, language, colour, social status, etc.
* (1) [(1) p.154] See Jean S. PICTET: ' Red Cross Principles, '