ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
Treaties and Documents
Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
. -- NOTIFICATION OF RANKS
PARAGRAPH 1. -- NOTIFICATION OF RANKS
The 1929 Convention provided, in Article 21, paragraph 1
, that the belligerents must "inform each other of the titles and ranks in use in their respective armed forces, with the view of ensuring equality of treatment between the corresponding ranks of officers and persons of equivalent status". Difficulties arose, however, in the application of this rule.
Having been instituted in order to ensure equality of treatment between the corresponding ranks of officers and persons of equivalent status, the 1929 provision therefore seemed to apply only to that category of prisoners of war and not to all the categories protected by the Convention. Numerous difficulties arose during the Second World War, since certain armed forces considered that those who held certain ranks had the status of officers, although that was not the case in the [p.249] armed forces of the Detaining Power (1). But it also happened that officers or non-commissioned officers were without the papers proving their rank, through either loss or confiscation, and were unable to establish a claim to the treatment to which their rank entitled them (2).
The Conference of Government Experts therefore considered that the provision should be made more specific and should clearly cover all persons to whom the Convention is applicable by requiring reciprocal notification of "the titles and ranks of all persons named in Article 4
PARAGRAPH 2. -- PROMOTIONS
This provision is new. During the Second World War, some belligerents refused to recognize promotions granted to prisoners of war during their captivity. The present paragraph requires the Detaining Power to recognize such promotions, provided they have been "duly notified".
Such notifications will be made through the good offices of either the Protecting Power or, if there is none, the International Committee of the Red Cross (4).
* (1) [(1) p.249] See BRETONNI RE, op. cit., pp. 148-149;
(2) [(2) p.249] See ' Report on the Work of the Conference of
Government Experts, ' pp. 154-155; ' Report of the
International Committee of the Red Cross on its activities
during the Second World War ', Vol. I, pp. 251-252. It
must be pointed out, however, that several belligerents
did communicate lists of the ranks in use in their armed
forces at the beginning of the Second World War (ibid., p.
(3) [(3) p.249] The French text differs from the English, here
and in Articles 44 and 45, in that it uses the word
"grade" for the English "rank". The distinction applies
mainly in the case of the navy, in which sailors may be of
the same rank (neither officers nor non-commissioned
officers) but of different grade. The French term "grade"
does not reflect this and makes no distinction between a
private, first class, and a private, second class. The
English text is therefore broader in scope;
(4) [(4) p.249] During the Second World War, the International
Committee of the Red Cross came to the conclusion that
such transmissions did not really form part of its
customary work and should be left to the diplomatic
services. See ' Report of the International Committee of
the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World
War, ' Vol. I, p. 252;