Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 1958 


Whereas the establishment of canteens for prisoners of war is obligatory (Third Convention, Article 28, paragraph 1 ), civilian internees will only be provided with canteens where other suitable facilities are not available. Indeed, there could be no question of establishing canteens if, for example, the internees were permitted to go to local shops to make purchases. Where canteens are installed, the text makes it clear that the prices should not be higher than local market prices. This provision was introduced at the Stockholm Conference, in order to avoid any repetition of certain abuses which occurred in prisoner-of-war camps during the Second World War despite the clear provisions of the 1929 Convention (1).
It will be noted that the list of ordinary articles with which canteens should be supplied contains soap, although Article 85, paragraph 3 , lays an obligation on the Detaining Power to supply soap in sufficient quantity and free of charge to the detainees. The text under discussion is aimed above all at "sustaining the morale" of the internees and giving them the opportunity of buying, for example, a particular kind of soap of their own choice in place of a corresponding amount of the kind supplied by the Detaining Power.


The welfare fund is to be made up exclusively of canteen profits. In this connection, the Rapporteurs (2) explained that paragraph 2 was [p.390] so drafted as to suggest that monies other than canteen profits might appropriately be allocated to general welfare purposes. The term "welfare fund" leaves the administrative authorities of the Detaining Power a wide freedom of interpretation on the use to be made of what is available, which can be divided between the recipients in unequal parts, taking into account the need to help those among the civilian internees most in need. There can indeed be very wide variations in the situation of internees. The guarantees of serious and impartial management which the internees can in any case claim, are given by the "right to check" granted to the Internee Committee called for under Article 102 (3). However, this right. to check, like that exercised by the same body over the whole administration of the canteens, leaves the Detaining Power itself the power of decision in regard both to the management of canteens
and to the distribution of welfare funds.


The Stockholm Draft reserved the balance of the welfare fund, if a place of internment was closed down, to internees of the same nationality. The Geneva Conference proved less categorical and did not exclude the use of the funds on behalf of internees of other nationalities.
The Third Geneva Convention (Article 28, paragraph 3 ) envisaged that when a prisoner-of-war camp was closed down the credit balance of the special fund should be handed to an international welfare organization to be employed for the benefit of prisoners of war of the same nationality. The idea was not adhered to in the case of civilian internees, because in general they are less numerous and of more diverse nationalities than prisoners of war, so that in some cases it would doubtless be difficult to make a fair distribution of the balance of the welfare fund on the sole basis of the nationality of the beneficiaries.
On the other hand, the provision making allowances for a general release of the internees is exactly the same as in the case of the repatriation of prisoners of war. The Detaining Power is to keep the profits from the canteens subject to any agreement to the contrary between the Powers concerned, made in accordance with the procedure laid down in Article 6 of the Third Convention and Article 7 of the Fourth Convention.

Notes: (1) [(1) p.389] Article 12, para. 2: "... prisoners shall be
able to procure, at the local market price, food
commodities and ordinary articles";

(2) [(2) p.389] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949 ', Vol. II-A, p. 827;

(3) [(1) p.390] In any case, it would be permissible for the
Detaining Power to entrust the management of the fund to
the Internee Committee itself;