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 (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
. -- VISITS
[p.475] During the last World War the regulations concerning visits by members of their families to internees differed not only from country to country but from camp to camp inside one country, since it depended in fact on the decision of camp commandants.
This Article, suggested by the International Committee of the Red Cross, takes into account its wide experience and the numerous and often successful representations which the Committee made to permit internees as far as possible to receive that support for their morale which comes from interviews with parents and friends.
It should be noted that this text does not cover visits by delegates of the Protecting Power or by delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or the visits of ministers of religion or representatives of relief societies, these being dealt with either in Article 30
or in Article 143
In its present form, Article 116 corresponds to the Stockholm text. It was adopted without discussion by the Diplomatic Conference.
PARAGRAPH 1. -- VISITS TO INTERNEES
The frequency of visits was not stated because it was important to leave the detaining authorities discretion to appraise their security needs. Experience in the last war showed the advantage of monthly or bi-monthly visits which, in places of internment far away from urban centres, could last from one to three days. It is not only members of their families who are allowed to visit internees. In Kenya, for example, internees without a family had been authorized, at the request of the delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross, to have visits from friends to whom they were in no way related. The results of this experience are embodied in the wording of this paragraph.
It should be noted that the position will be quite different according to whether the internees are detained near their usual residence or not, in their own country -- occupied -- or in the enemy country. In any case, the particular wording of the Article ("every internee....") does not prevent the Detaining Power from arranging for visits on fixed dates in every place of internment and for all internees.
PARAGRAPH 2. -- VISITS MADE BY INTERNEES OUTSIDE
THEIR PLACE OF INTERNMENT
In the same way as the internee, in urgent cases and if circumstances permit, may be authorized to leave his place of internment to manage his property, he may also receive permission to leave his [p.476] internment for family reasons. This is a provision which has no parallel in the Prisoners of War Convention. It should be noted, however, that the facility is only granted "as far as is possible"; it will therefore be restricted in practice to internees whose families reside in the country of internment itself. For those who are separated from their families by frontiers -- not to speak of theatres of operations -- such meetings would obviously give rise to insoluble problems.