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.
. -- INTERNMENT CARD
Internment, it must be emphasized once more, is not a measure of punishment and so the persons interned must not be held incommunicado.
Once more, the authors of the Convention considered that internees should have the advantage of the experience gained in the case of prisoners of war. The system of capture cards established for prisoners of war by Article 70
of the Third Convention has been adapted for use by civilian internees who will have available internment cards enabling them to advise their families, if they had not already been informed, and the Central Information Agency set up in a neutral country in accordance with Article 140
. It should be noted, furthermore, that the internee concerned will "be enabled" to fill in the internment card. He therefore remains entirely free to do so or not.
At the suggestion of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the authors of the Convention gave the Agency the duty of making such notification, providing that it was not likely to harm the persons concerned or their families. In general, indeed, their political activities may make the position of civilians in internment more complicated than that of members of the armed forces captured in battle and obstacles which do not exist in the latter case may stand in the way of revealing the situation in which civilian internees [p.447] may find themselves. It was therefore preferable to leave the Agency the task of judging whether or not to transmit any information received, after consultation, if need be, with those concerned (1).
The internment cards can be used in cases of transfer from one place of internment to another. It is reasonable to suppose that the internees will then use the facilities afforded them under Article 128, paragraph 1
, and will send the cards before even leaving for their new place of internment.
The text also provides that internment cards can be used "in cases of sickness". Minor forms of sickness will not, in general, involve the application of this provision, for in most cases they will not entail the transfer of the internees. The specimen internment card annexed to the Convention shows that the provision refers to changes of address as a result of sickness. It will therefore be for a doctor to judge the seriousness of the case. It will seemingly be only in the case of sickness involving the sending of the patient to hospital outside the place of internment that the use of internment cards duly filled in and addressed to the family and the Central Agency will be required. What is important, indeed, is that the internee should be able to advise the Agency and his family of any change of address, even provisional (2).
As to the wording and format of the cards, the Article says that they shall be similar, if possible, to the model annexed to the present Convention. This model, drawn up by the International Committee of the Red Cross, contains only spaces for entering information essential for identification capable of being supplied rapidly and without trouble; the use of this format and this arrangement of headings would allow the cards to be inserted in card-indexes of uniform size, thus making handling and reading easier (3).
The last provision of Article 106 refers to the need for forwarding internment cards as rapidly as possible. It is a reasonable inference that in time of war the hindrances to land and sea communications [p.448] automatically make air mail the only suitable Way of conforming to this clause. As for censorship to which no formal objection is made, the brief particulars always presented in the same order on the internment cards can reduce censorship to an extremely rapid scanning of the cards (4).
Notes: (1) [(1) p.447] This provision is based on the experience of
the Second World War. Many civilian internees objected to
their names being transmitted to their country of origin,
something which does not occur in communicating
prisoner-of-war lists. See ' Report of the International
Committee of the Red Cross on its activities during the
Second World War, ' Vol. I, p. 577;
(2) [(2) p.447] The specimen internment card annexed to the
Convention explains clearly, under the heading
"IMPORTANT", the meaning of this measure. See below, p.
(3) [(3) p.447] It will be noted, furthermore, that the model
annexed to the Convention is designed essentially for the
Central Information Agency, and contains some information
already known to families. It was thought, however, that
the use of identical documents would make censorship
easier and thus assist more rapid communication;
(4) [(1) p.448] One of the methods of censorship often used is
to delay forwarding mail for several weeks without even
looking at it, in order that any information which might
be given therein will lose its value. This method would,
of course, be inadmissible in forwarding internment cards;