International Committee of the Red Cross
Who we are
What we do
Where we work
War & Law
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.
. -- RATIFICATION
PARAGRAPH 1. -- RATIFICATION AND DEPOSIT
Ratification is the formal act by which a Power finally accepts the text of the Convention which has been signed at an earlier stage by its plenipotentiaries. This act, carried out by the body competent under the municipal law of each country, can alone give the Convention obligatory force and make it binding on the State concerned.
Ratification is made effective by the deposit With the Swiss Federal Council of a communication called the instrument of ratification, which is the expression of the will of the State concerned towards the other States (1).
The statement that the Convention "shall be ratified as soon as possible" is a pressing recommendation to each country to hasten the procedure.
[p.642] In accordance with normal practice, provision has not been made for the direct exchange of ratifications between signatory countries, but for their deposit with a government which is made responsible for receiving them and for notifying receipt. This task has been entrusted to the Swiss Federal Council, the traditional depositary of the Geneva Conventions.
PARAGRAPH 2. -- RECORD AND NOTIFICATION
Paragraph 2 lays down that the Swiss Federal Council is to draw up a record of the deposit of each instrument of ratification, and transmit a certified copy of that record to all signatory and acceding Powers.
Both the record and the copies will mention any reservation which may accompany the ratification, for the information of the other States.
In so far as it is possible to follow rules in such a controversial matter, the absence of an objection to a reservation on the part of a State to Which it is thus communicated may be taken as denoting assent.
The effect of an objection by a State party or signatory to the Convention to a reservation made by another party is at present under discussion. Those in favour of the traditional system claim that such a objection prevents the Power making the reservation from participating in the Convention. On the other hand, those who follow the system in force in Pan-American affairs claim that the objection only prevents the Convention from entering into force as between the party making the reservation and the State objecting to that reservation. The International Court of justice, in an opinion given in connection With the Genocide Convention, recommended a compromise solution, by referring to the idea that the entering of a reservation not expressly agreed to by the other signatory States does not deprive the author of that reservation of the right to participate in the Convention provided that the reservation remains compatible with the object of the Convention.
In any case, it seems consistent with humanitarian spirit to consider that the present Convention binds together all the parties thereto in respect of all those provisions which have not been the subject of a reservation.
Similarly, it is obvious that a reservation which is accepted, expressly or tacitly, will affect only the relations which the State [p.643] making it maintains with other contracting Powers, and not the relations of those Powers among themselves.
As stated above, a reservation made at the time of signature is valid only if it is confirmed at the time of ratification.
* (1) [(3) p.641] It is only the deposit of the ratification
which is valid under international law and not the
authorization to ratify which, under the law of the
majority of countries, must be given to the Government by
Who we are
What we do
Where we work
War & law
Working for the ICRC
Doing business with the ICRC
Israel and the occupied territories
Global Partnership for Humanitarian Impact and Innovation
Republic of Korea (Korean)
Humanitarian law and policy
L'humanitaire dans tous ses états (French)
Somalia (English and Somali)
© International Committee of the Red Cross