Why does the ICRC visit POWs and interned civilians?

19-12-2003 FAQ

Prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian internees (CI) are protected by the Geneva Conventions, which also give the ICRC the right to visit them. The ICRC has been mandated by the international community, under the Geneva Conventions, to ensure that international humanitarian law is applied fully. Among the ICRC's tasks are visits to prisoners, both military and civilian.

  • The ICRC's main concern is that prisoners of war or civilian internees are treated according to international humanitarian law. The objective of the law is to protect humanity during the most extreme situations, such as armed conflicts, against a descent into barbarity.

  • The visits help to ensure respect for the life and dignity of prisoners of war and interned civilians by reminding the detaining authorities, wherever necessary, that the captives'treatment and their conditions of detention must correspond to standards laid down by international humanitarian law.

  • ICRC visits also give the persons held captive the opportunity to renew and maintain contacts with their families.

  • Visits to places of detention allow the ICRC to register persons deprived of freedom in order to help prevent disappearances.

  • The ICRC maintains a direct and confidential dialogue on these subjects with the authorities in charge; the delegates'findings are discussed with the authorities and described in confidential reports.

  • Delegates must be allowed to see all prisoners and internees falling within the ICRC's mandate and to have access to all places where they are held; interviews are held in private, and the ICRC must be allowed to repeat the visits as often as necessary.