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.
. -- DENUNCIATION
[p.647] PARAGRAPH 1 -- RIGHT OF DENUNCIATION
This clause gives any Contracting Power the right to withdraw unilaterally from the community of States parties to the Convention. If there were no such provision, withdrawal would not be possible except by consent of the other Contracting Parties.
Since the Geneva Conventions first came into existence, no State has ever invoked this clause. It is inconceivable that a Power could ever repudiate such elementary rules of humanity and civilization.
Even if a State were to denounce the Convention, it would still be morally bound by the principles of that Convention, which are to-day the expression of valid international law in this sphere (1).
PARAGRAPH 2 -- NOTIFICATION
Denunciations, like accessions, must be notified in writing to the Swiss Federal Council, in its capacity as depositary of the Geneva Conventions. The Federal Council will transmit them to the other High Contracting Parties.
PARAGRAPH 3 -- NOTICE
A denunciation will not take effect immediately; under normal peace-time conditions, it will take effect only after one year has elapsed.
[p.648] If the denouncing Power is involved in a conflict (2) the waiting period will be prolonged and the denunciation will not take effect until peace has been concluded (3), or even, where the case arises, until the release and repatriation of prisoners of war are completed (4). This clause is the counterpart of the preceding Article
; it, too, is dictated by the best interests of the victims of war.
Although according to the actual letter of the Convention, the prolongation of the waiting period affects only denunciations notified in the course of conflicts, it may be assumed that the prolongation should also be applied whenever denunciation is notified less than one year before a conflict breaks out; such a denunciation would then become effective only at the end of the conflict.
PARAGRAPH 4. -- LIMITATION OF THE CONSEQUENCES oF DENUNCIATION
The fact that denunciation is effective only in respect of the denouncing Power is related to the omission of the ' clausula si omnes ' included in the Hague Conventions, which is confirmed by Article 2, paragraph 3
, of the present Convention; the reader should refer to the commentary on that provision.
The reminder that humanitarian principles continue to apply, despite denunciation, thus limiting the consequences of the latter, originated in a proposal by the XVIIth International Red Cross Conference.
The provision takes its whole significance from the fact that the Convention contains no Preamble, in which it could have been more suitably embodied. Its affinity to the eighth paragraph of the Preamble to the Fourth Hague Convention of 1907 -- the so-called Martens clause -- is evident (5).
* (1) [(1) p.647] See the commentary on Article 135;
(2) [(1) p.648] The word "conflict" must obviously be
understood in its broadest sense; it covers the various
situations described in Articles 2 and 3;
(3) [(2) p.648] The wording used shows clearly that it is the
formal conclusion of the peace treaty which is meant and
not merely the ending of military operations. In cases of
conflicts not of an international character, it will mean
the effective reestablishment of a state of peace;
(4) [(3) p.648] This provision may be compared with Article 5;
(5) [(4) p.648] See above, p. 47;