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Commentary of 1958 


In the Hague Regulations there are no special provisions dealing with the requisition of civilian hospitals: it was governed by the rules which applied to requisitions in general. Under Article 52 , the Occupying Power was entitled to requisition private hospitals, municipal and State hospitals, which, like all other "institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences", were placed on the same footing as private property.
The new provisions have not changed that rule in any way. As in the past, civilian hospitals in occupied territory are liable to be requisitioned, whether they are privately or publicly owned. Nevertheless in view of the essential rôle they play in maintaining the standard of health of the population, the Diplomatic Conference hedged about the right to requisition with a series of safeguards.
In the first place, civilian hospitals cannot be requisitioned otherwise than "temporarily", and only in cases of "urgent necessity for the care of military wounded and sick".
It follows that the Occupying Power will not be able to requisition civilian hospitals while its own medical establishments can cope with the wounded and sick of the army of occupation, nor can it under any circumstances requisition a civilian hospital for non-medical purposes -- to turn it into billets for unwounded troops for example. By stipulating that hospitals can be requisitioned only temporarily, the Convention places the occupying authorities under an obligation to restore the hospital to its normal use as soon as the state of necessity ceases to exist, that is as soon as the medical services of the occupation forces are able to cope with the needs of their wounded and sick.
[p.317] Furthermore the second half of the paragraph makes the requisitioning of civilian hospitals subject to suitable arrangements having been made "in due time" for the care and treatment of the patients and for the needs for the civilian population.
The Stockholm Draft laid down, by analogy with Article 15 of the First Convention of 1929 and the draft text revising it, that the Occupying Power could make use of civilian hospitals on condition of having previously ensured the care of the sick and wounded accommodated therein (2).
On the other hand the provision here goes further than the 1929 Convention; for it requires the Occupying Power to make suitable arrangements, not only for people who are in hospitals at the time they are requisitioned but also for the civilian population as a whole. In thus obliging the Occupying Power to take due account of possible demands on hospital accommodation, the Diplomatic Conference drew the logical inference from Article 56 , which lays down that medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory are to be maintained.


Here again the Diplomatic Conference modified the formula "so long as they are necessary for the wounded and sick" which appeared in the Stockholm Draft by analogy with the First 1929 Convention (3); it substituted the expression "so long as they are necessary for the needs of the civilian population", thus adopting a broader criterion covering not only the immediate needs of the patients admitted to hospital but also the possible needs of the population (4).
A proposal that requisitioning of the material and stores of civilian hospitals should be absolutely forbidden was rejected by the Conference, since it was considered that a stipulation of that kind would have little chance of being respected; it would moreover have been contrary to the spirit of the Geneva Convention, as the clause would have made a distinction in favour of those wounded and sick persons who were nationals of the occupied territory, such discrimination being frowned upon by the Conventions.
In case of necessity, the Occupying Power will therefore be entitled to use civilian hospital reserves (chloroform, blood plasma, etc.) for [p.318] the treatment of its own wounded and sick (5). When so doing, it will take the needs of the population into account and it will replace the material used as soon as possible, usually by importing medical supplies in accordance with Article 55 .

Notes: (1) [(1) p.316] For the development of Article 57, see ' Final
Record, ' Vol. I, p. 122; Vol. II-A, pp. 666-668, 747-748,
830, 857; Vol. II-B, pp. 419-421;

(2) [(1) p.317] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. I, p. 116;
' Commentary I, ' Art. 33, p. 275;

(3) [(2) p.317] See ibid., Vol. I, p. 116;

(4) [(3) p.317] See ibid., Vol. II-A, pp. 747-748, 830; Vol.
II-B, pp. 419-421;

(5) [(1) p.318] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, pp. 747-748;
Vol. II-B, pp. 419-421;