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.
. -- PROHIBITION OF COERCION
1. ' Scope of the prohibition '
The prohibition laid down in this Article is general in Character and applies to both physical and moral forms of coercion. It covers all cases, whether the pressure is direct or indirect, obvious or hidden [p.220] (as for example a threat to subject other persons to severe measures, deprival of ration cards or of work).
Furthermore, coercion is forbidden for any purpose or motive whatever. The authors of the Convention had mainly in mind coercion aimed at obtaining information, work or support for an ideological or political idea. The scope of the text is more general than that of Article 44
of the Hague Regulations of 1907, under which "a belligerent is forbidden to force the inhabitants of a territory occupied by it to furnish information about the army of the other belligerent, or about its means of defence"; Article 31 prohibits coercion for any purpose or reason ad the obtaining of information is only given as an example. Thus, the custom, hitherto accepted in practice but disputed in theory, that an invasion army may force the inhabitants of an occupied territory to serve as "guides" is now forbidden (1).
Furthermore, the prohibition is no longer limited in scope to the population of an occupied territory, but covers all protected persons, thus including even civilian aliens on the territory of a party to the conflict.
2. ' Significance of the prohibition '
The general nature of the new provision marks an important step forward in international law. For its exact significance to be appreciated, it should not be considered in isolation but rather in the light of the other provisions of the Convention. It will then be seen that there is no question of absolute prohibition, as might be thought at first sight. The prohibition only applies in so far as the other provisions of the Convention do not implicitly or explicit y authorize a resort to coercion. Thus, Article 31 is subject to the unspoken reservation that force is permitted whenever it is necessary to use it in the application of measures taken under the Convention. This power is embodied and expressed particularly in penal legislation and in the control and security regulations enacted by the belligerents and to which protected persons are subject. Thus, a party to the conflict Would be entitled to use coercion with regard to protected p sons in order to compel respect for his right to requisition services Articles 40
), to ensure the supply of foodstuffs, etc. to which he is entitled (Article 55, para. 2
, Article 57
), to carry out the necessary evacuation measures (Article 49, para. 2
), to remove public officials in occupied territories from their posts (Article 54, para. 2
) and in regard to everything connected with internment (Articles 79
Notes: (1) [(1) p.220] See, for example, C. HYDE: ' International
Law, ' Vol. II, pp. 1839-1840; ROLIN: ' Le droit moderne
de la guerre, ' Vol. I, pp. 458-460;