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. 129. Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons #Section IV : Regulations for the treatment of internees #Chapter XI : Deaths
. -- WILLS, DEATH CERTIFICATES
[p.504] PARAGRAPH 1. -- WILLS
It was seen in Article 113
that in every case the Detaining Power would facilitate the execution and the authentication in due legal form of wills. These documents will be handed to the responsible authorities i.e. to the commandant of the place of internment or, on the responsibility of the commandant, to a public notary who will ensure their safe-keeping.
This system differs in two respects from the scheme suggested at Stockholm. It leaves those concerned the task of deciding what form to give to their wills (after consultation with a lawyer, if need be, as laid down in Article 113
) (1) and it makes it clear that the will must be forwarded to the persons appointed by the testator immediately on his death. The forwarding of the will therefore implies an official notification of death and is designed, together with the provisions of paragraph 3 of this Article to avoid the property of the deceased remaining unclaimed.
PARAGRAPH 2. -- DEATH CERTIFICATE
The death certificate is the responsibility of the medical authorities and the present paragraph contains a guarantee that the internees will be duly assisted even in death itself on the responsibility of the Detaining Power. As they will preferably be treated, as already mentioned (2), by medical personnel of their own nationality, the [p.505] certificate and the report on the causes of death and the conditions under which it occurred can certainly be drawn up by a doctor from among their compatriots. He would, however, be well advised to have his statements countersigned by the medical authorities of the Detaining Power. Indeed, in the spirit of paragraph 4 of Article 91
, which obliges those authorities to send on request an official certificate stating the nature of an internee's illness or injury, such a request should be welcome and this countersigning could be useful if the report on the causes of death and the conditions under which it occurred were to be cited one day by the heirs of the deceased person in support
of an application for compensation or for other purposes.
PARAGRAPH 3. -- OFFICIAL RECORD OF DEATH
It is unnecessary to dwell on the legal importance of an official death certificate. Without such a document the family of the deceased, quite apart from the moral anguish of uncertainty, might find itself in great material distress, especially as regards the disposal of his property. If the spouse wishes to remarry, the death certificate is essential. For such a document to be valid, it is necessary and sufficient that it be drawn up according to the law of the country where death takes place. Transmission of a death certificate, like the forwarding of wills mentioned in paragraph 1, must be made without delay for the same reasons.
The assistance of the Detaining Power is necessary to guarantee that the document is not lost and the sending of a copy to the Central Agency, as well as offering a further guarantee that the certificate will be kept, will enable the file of the deceased to be brought up to date for the Agency's purposes. (3)
Notes: (1) [(1) p.504] If the will is to be executed in the country
of internment, it may be advisable to draft it in due
legal form according to the same regulations as those in
force for the general population. If it is to be executed
in a country other than the country of internment, it may
be preferable to draw it up in holographic form or in the
form of a deed executed and authenticated by a notary with
clauses different from those used in the country of
internment, although the rule "locus regit actum" is of
wide application. The Rapporteurs of the Committee of the
Diplomatic Conference concerned with this question
insisted on a precise wording. (See ' Final Record, ' vol.
II-A, p. 844.) It should be noted, furthermore, that in
the second case this provision will correspond to Article
120 of the Third Convention, which states that the wills
of prisoners of war shall be drawn up so as to satisfy the
conditions of validity required by the legislation of
their country of origin;
(2) [(2) p.504] See above, Article 91, para. 3;
(3) [(1) p.505] See Commentary on Article 140;