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.
. -- LABOUR DETACHMENTS
[p.418] Even if the work is not done in the actual place of internment, the internees are entitled to protection under the Convention. For that reason it was desirable to define the responsibilities of the Detaining Power and to make provision for ensuring that the protection is in fact given.
1. ' Responsibility '
All labour detachments will come under the authority of the commandant of the place of internment.
It will be seen in the commentary on Article 99
that the appointment of a camp commandant is governed by very definite rules. The Detaining Power may only give the post to an officer or official chosen from the ' regular ' military forces or ' regular ' civil administration.
It is not, however, merely a question of the responsibilities of that officer or official: the text of the Article also refers to the competent authorities of the Detaining Power. That means not only his subordinates, the supervisory staff on the spot (the training of which would appear to be a responsibility of the commandant according to Article 99, paragraph 1
) but by all the authorities to whom the commandant of the place of internment is himself subordinate. In the same way the corresponding Article of the Prisoners of War Convention (Article 56
) refers to the military authorities and the camp commander. This provision implies, therefore, that if the commandant fails in his duty, the State is still responsible.
This is without prejudice to the question of individual responsibility as defined in Articles 146
to 149. The question was dealt with explicitly by the Diplomatic Conference of 1949 when adopting the corresponding provision concerning prisoners of war (1). The responsibility of the Detaining Power in no way absolves its agents from their responsibility for offences committed by them against the internees (2).
2. ' Supervision '
The checking of the fulfilment of these responsibilities is a duty of delegates of the Protecting Power or its substitute as defined in Article 11
. Apart from supervision in the strict sense of the word, the Protecting Power, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other approved humanitarian organizations, as defined in Articles 30
, have an acknowledged right of inspection.
In order to exercise that right, these various authorities and organizations must know where all labour detachments without [p.419] exception are to be found. Hence the obligation also on the commandant concerned to supply an up-to-date list. The provision is intended to avoid difficulties such as were encountered by delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross when visiting certain labour detachments (particularly of prisoners of war) during the Second World War. On various occasions a list of labour detachments could not be obtained from the camp commandant and it was necessary to refer to higher military authority, which meant long delays.
The present provision is clear, so far as the Detaining Power and the International Committee of the Red Cross are concerned. The lists communicated to them must at least show the exact position of the labour detachments and the number of internees in each. The other humanitarian organizations, as was seen in connection with Article 30
, are those which the Detaining Power has duly authorized to visit camps. Article 142, paragraph 2
, allows the Detaining Power to limit the number of societies and organizations authorized to carry out their activities in its territory. On the other hand, camp commandants are bound to communicate the list of labour detachments to any delegate who has been so authorized.
Notes: (1) [(1) p.418] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, pp. 276-277;
(2) [(2) p.418] This is one case of the application of the
rule laid down in Article 29;