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.
[p.11] TITLE OF THE CONVENTION
GENEVA CONVENTION RELATIVE TO THE TREATMENT OF
PRISONERS OF WAR OF AUGUST 12, 1949
The 1929 text was already entitled "Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War". This title had been adopted by a small majority at the 1929 Conference, after lengthy discussion. Throughout the Conference, the term "Prisoners of War Code" was in constant use. Those who favoured the use of this term pointed out that it contained a clear statement of the purpose; it was "the most striking title and the one which appealed most to the imagination of those who were to benefit from it"; "when one affords certain guarantees to the victims of misfortune, it is useful and indeed necessary that they should be aware of that fact". It was, nevertheless, pointed out that the Convention was neither a codification of measures which already existed in various instruments, nor a complete collection of all the regulations applicable to prisoners of war.
Another title proposed was "Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Prisoners of War", which would have been akin to the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and the Sick. This proposal was also rejected, however, in order to avoid any possible confusion.
The title then finally approved was retained for the Third Convention of 1949 (1).
The title did not, in fact, give rise to a very lively discussion in 1949. One National Red Cross Society had however, raised an objection, considering that the title of the Convention adopted in 1929 did not accurately reflect its contents, since certain provisions of the Convention seemed to refer to obligations as between States rather than [p.12] directly to the "treatment of prisoners of war" (2). The International Committee of the Red Cross considered that it would be preferable to retain the 1929 title, which had become a tradition, and the Diplomatic Conference finally supported that view.
It should be noted that after 1949, the term "Geneva Convention" was extended to cover all four Conventions instead of merely the First Convention. The Conference considered that this would constitute an appropriate tribute to the city of Geneva, the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and also to Switzerland as a whole (3).
* (1) [(1) p.11] Despite the fact that it included the word
"treatment" which some delegations took to have a medical
connotation; this interpretation was in fact erroneous,
since the word actually has a very general meaning. See
' Actes de la Conférence Diplomatique de Genève de 1919, '
p. 632 and pp. 638-641; see also, Jean S. PICTET, ' Red
Cross Principles, ' International Committee of the Red
Cross, Geneva 1956, p. 25;
(2) [(1) p.12] See ' XVIIth International Conference of the
Red Cross, Draft Revised or New Conventions for the
Protection of War Victims, ' Geneva, May 1948, No. 4a, p.
(3) [(2) p.12] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference
of Geneva of 1949, ' Berne 1950-51, four volumes, Vol. I,
II-A, II-B, III; Vol. II-B, p. 457;