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Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
. -- INTERNEE COMMITTEES: II. DUTIES
This Article does not describe in detail the various duties of Internee Committees, but rather indicates the spirit in which those duties should be carried out and gives a specific instance.
PARAGRAPH 1. -- PURPOSE OF THE COMMITTEES
The main purpose of the Convention is to keep protected persons in good morale and in good physical health and it is in this spirit that Article 103 is written.
The word used is worth noticing: the Internee Committees are to "further" the well-being of the internees. Their activities will therefore merely be complementary to those of the Detaining Power which has the task, under the Convention, of providing for the internees' maintenance and to the activities of the doctors and ministers of religion responsible for medical and religious matters.
The Internee Committees, therefore, do not assume responsibility for the physical and moral well-being of the internees. They merely lend their assistance to those who bear that responsibility in its entirety. Obviously, however, members of Internee Committees recruited among the internees themselves are better placed than the [p.441] Detaining Power for knowing the requirements of their companions and the proper means of furthering their welfare, making due allowance for their habits and mentality. This general clause could therefore be regarded as giving the Internee Committees the right to take any action likely to further the internees' well-being. In the same way as the camp leader in the prisoner-of-war camp enjoys considerable latitude in assisting his comrades and is allowed to correspond with relief organizations, subscribe to newspapers, organize concerts and theatricals, initiate study courses, set up a legal advice bureau, transmit legal documents and suggest the sending to hospital or repatriation of certain men, so the
Internee Committees have the general task of ensuring the application of the Convention on behalf of their fellow-internees. Of course, this task should be carried out in accordance with the principles of the Convention, without arbitrarily preferential treatment or discrimination contrary to the provisions of the Convention (1).
PARAGRAPH 2. -- MUTUAL ASSISTANCE
The experience of two world wars has shown that the activities of the camp leaders have made it possible for the poorest of prisoners of war to be helped by their own comrades. In some cases the camp leader organized collections and his office became a real social welfare bureau.
The second paragraph adapts the results of this experience to the case of internees and in particular gives the Internee Committees the task of organizing a mutual assistance scheme. In view of the variation in conditions and resources among the internees, such a scheme can be very useful, for among them there will certainly be heads of family who, in losing their normal work, will have left their dear ones in serious difficulty.
Some of the other special tasks mentioned in the text have already been discussed -- i.e., Articles 87
(running of the canteens) and 101 (transmission of complaints and petitions) and reference should also be made to those dealt with in Articles 109
(collective relief), 118 (judicial proceedings instituted against internees), 125 (handing over to the infirmary perishable goods contained in parcels addressed to internees undergoing disciplinary punishment) and 128 (transport of the internees' community property and luggage).
Notes: (1) [(1) p.441] Article 2 of the Draft Regulations concerning
Collective Relief annexed to the Convention provides that
the distribution of the relief "in accordance with a plan
drawn up by the Internee Committees,... shall always be
carried out equitably";