Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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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.442] ARTICLE 104
. -- INTERNEE COMMITTEES: III. PREROGATIVES
The prerogatives of members of the Internee Committees are the same as those of the prisoners' representatives (Third Convention, Article 81
). As was said in the commentary on Article 103
, the Committee is corporate not personal in nature, but it was important that the Committees should be able to render the same services to the internees a prisoners' representatives to the prisoners of war.
For this purpose, each of the members of an Internee Committee is given individually the same prerogatives as prisoners' representative. It is understood that he will use these prerogatives in all cases as the representative of the Committee, for under the Convention no delegation of authority is permitted which might give one of the members of the Committee greater authority than his colleagues.
PARAGRAPH 1. -- EXEMPTION FROM WORK
The desire to make this Convention parallel to the Prisoners of War Convention has led in this paragraph to a somewhat illogical [p.443] result, which was pointed out during the discussions in Geneva (1). In the case of prisoners of war who may be made to work under the provisions of the Convention, it is reasonable that camp leaders should be given exemption; but is a similar provision necessary in the case of civilians who are covered by Article 95
stating that they may not be compelled to work?
The reply was that Article 95
also contains a clause exempting maintenance work in the camp, which internees may be compelled to do, so that paragraph 1 would be justified as referring to this. Whether the detail is necessary or not, it is certainly not useless. It lays emphasis on the importance of the tasks of the Internee Committees by stipulating that the Committee's members may devote themselves merely to those tasks without any hindrance resulting from other work.
PARAGRAPH 2. -- ASSISTANTS
Like prisoners' representatives members of Internee Committees may be helped by deputies, advisers or assistants. This will apply particularly to interpreters in places of internment where persons of various nationalities are detained.
It should be noted, with regard to the "freedom of movement" which is mentioned, that the text says "certain freedom", not "complete freedom". Article 3
of the Draft Rules concerning Collective Relief annexed to the Convention in a way provides a commentary on this provision by stating that members of Internee Committees shall be permitted to go to stations or other arrival points near their place of internment where the relief supplies are sent.
Unlike the provision in the similar Article concerning prisoners of war, this permission does not extend to their deputies.
The mention of visits to labour detachments implies that the Internee Committee will have its headquarters in the principal place of internment and will represent the whole of the detached groups. It will be seen, however, that the following paragraph provides for the possibility of one or more members of an Internee Committee being permanently with the labour detachments.
One of the "material facilities" to be provided for these visits or journeys will certainly be means of transport, although the text does not say so, in the same way as means of transport are provided for ministers of religion carrying out their religious duties (Article 93
[p.444] PARAGRAPH 3. -- CORRESPONDENCE
The large scale on which relief consignments may be sent to places of internment, judging by the scale on which they were sent to prisoner-of-war camps during the Second World War, justifies the granting of correspondence facilities to members of the Internee Committees, who deal particularly with the reception and distribution of such relief.
The first of these facilities is that correspondence should be post-free in the same way as the ordinary correspondence of the internees. Furthermore, as stated expressly in the last sentence of this paragraph, this correspondence must not be limited or considered as forming a part of the minimum quota of two letters and four cards per month allocated to every internee. Another concession that must be made is to grant them exception to the rule that internees should write in their mother tongue (Article 107, para. 3
); this correspondence may be drafted in another language suitable in the particular instance, when writing to the Detaining Power, the Protecting Power, the International Committee of the Red Cross or any other relief society.
It is not stated that these communications are free from censorship. However, the granting of "all facilities" lays an obligation on the Detaining Power, if it subjects this correspondence to censorship, to ensure that delays do not occur to the disadvantage of the internees.
With regard to labour detachments, the facilities are restricted to correspondence with the main place of internment and do not extend outside the country of internment. This means that if the members of an Internee Committee who are working in a labour detachment wish to correspond with relief societies, for example, they must send their messages via the Internee Committee in the principal place of internment.
PARAGRAPH 4. -- TRANSFERS
The functions of the Internee Committees and the development of their various activities and their correspondence demand a continuity useful for the internees' welfare. It was therefore right to provide that, in the case of transfer to another place of internment, the members of these Committees should be allowed a reasonable time to acquaint their successors with the position.
With regard to prisoners' representatives in prisoner-of-war camps, the 1929 Convention (paragraph 3 of Article 44
) provided that, in case of transfer, the "time necessary" should be allowed for [p.445] acquainting the new representative with his duties. Despite this provision, some camp commandants during the Second World War refused to grant more than an hour for handing over authority. The word "reasonable" has been added to the previous text with a view to inducing those responsible to take into account the extensive duties of a prisoners' representative and to show themselves liberal in the question of transfers. It is in this same spirit that the identical provision relating to the members of the Internee Committee should be interpreted.
Notes: (1) [(1) p.443] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, p. 682;