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.
Art. 109. Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section IV : Regulations for the treatment of internees #Chapter VIII : Relations with the exterior
[p.456] ARTICLE 109
. -- RELIEF SHIPMENTS: II. COLLECTIVE RELIEF
Article 109 is based on the experience of relief societies and particularly the International Committee of the Red Cross during the Second World War, which led to a general preference for the sending of collective shipments rather than of individual parcels. The reasons for this were mentioned in the commentary on paragraph 1 of Article 108
PARAGRAPH 1. -- REGULATIONS ANNEXED TO THE CONVENTION
Regulations concerning the receipt and distribution of relief supplies obviously depend on the circumstances ruling at the time and in a particular place, which are difficult to forecast in every detail. This led to the idea of special agreements being concluded between the Parties to the conflict. However, the suggestion made by the International Committee of the Red Cross and retained in the Stockholm Draft, was approved without amendment by the Diplomatic Conference, so that Annex II of the Convention contains Draft Regulations concerning Collective Relief for Civilian Internees. The Parties, of course, retain the right to adapt these Draft Regulations to circumstances, but it is stated expressly that if they fail to agree, the regulations annexed are those which will be applied. It will be in the Parties' interest to observe these regulations, for the measures envisaged are based on long experience and have proved satisfactory.
It should be noted that the annexed regulations go beyond the question of receipt and distribution of relief supplies. As will be seen [p.457] in the commentary on the text (1), certain provisions, particularly the one relating to purchases of goods on the territory of the Detaining Power (Article 7
), or the direct distribution of collective relief by representatives of the Protecting Power or the International Committee of the Red Cross (Article 8
), proclaim additional rules of great importance.
There is, however, one question which is not covered by the regulations and on which a few words should be said: the question of receipts. The 1929 Convention, which envisaged only individual parcels, provided that the parcels should be delivered to the recipients against a receipt. Nothing like that is said in the case of collective relief supplies. However, in view of the value and volume of such supplies, those who forward them incur a responsibility towards the donors from which they should be discharged by the production of a receipt in due form. In the case of prisoners of war, the question of receipts is settled by the last paragraph of Article 125
(2); a similar clause is not included in the corresponding Article of the Fourth Convention (Article 142
concerning relief societies). It seems that this gap could be filled, however, by reference to Article 3
of the annexed Regulations concerning the "detailed reports" to be made out "for the donors". It should not be forgotten also that the donors and still more the Powers whose citizens they are, can obtain every guarantee required, quite apart from receipts, either through the Protecting Powers or through the International Committee of the Red Cross, whose special position is expressly recognized in the Convention (3).
PARAGRAPH 2. -- THE ROLE OF THE INTERNEE COMMITTEES
In view of the freedom retained by the Parties to the conflict to settle the question of collective relief by means of special agreements, which more or less provide for exceptions to the annexed regulations, it was necessary to take precautions to avoid the special agreements running counter to the meaning of those regulations, the principles of which had been accepted by the Diplomatic Conference. For that reason, this paragraph recalls the inalienable right of Internee Committees to receive and distribute collective relief.
[p.458] This right in no way implies that the members of the Internee Committees acquire personally any right of ownership over the relief. The relief supplies remain common property and, where divisible, they become the property of the internees themselves after distribution. The Internee Committees should be considered as responsible only for reception and distribution, in carrying out which they must only be guided by the general interest of the internees.
PARAGRAPH 3. -- ROLE OF THE SUPERVISORY AND RELIEF BODIES
The special agreements which can be concluded between the Parties to a conflict must not invalidate in any way the rôle assigned in the Convention to the Protecting Power and to the International Committee of the Red Cross (or any other organization for assistance to internees) in the reception and distribution of collective relief supplies.
However great the effort of the Internee Committees to be fair in the distribution of relief, it is to be feared that under the influence of the personal character of their members or even under pressure from the Detaining Power, there may be discrimination against some internees contrary to the intentions of the donors. Thus, it was considered necessary to reaffirm, in case of need, the control of distribution by the Protecting Power or by an impartial body capable of swearing that the relief is being given in accordance with regulations, fairly and in conformity with the donors' wishes.
The commentary on Article 142
will explain what is meant by "any other organization giving assistance to the internees". It can be stated here, however, that this can only be a humanitarian body which affords every guarantee of impartiality and competence, like the International Committee of the Red Cross, and which is thus duly authorized by the Detaining Power to check the distribution of parcels.
Notes: (1) [(1) p.457] See below, p. 644;
(2) [(2) p.457] "As soon as relief supplies or material
intended for the above-mentioned purposes are handed over
to prisoners of war or very shortly afterwards, receipts
for each consignment, signed by the prisoners'
representative, shall be forwarded to the relief society
or organization making the shipment. At the same time
receipts for these consignments shall be supplied by the
administrative authorities responsible for guarding the
(3) [(3) p.457] See particularly Article 142, para. 3;