Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 1958 

The principle established by Article 94 is a corollary of the one set forth in the previous Article . Internees are entitled to have their religious aspirations respected and to practise their religion, and they may also find intellectual activities a help to their morale. Whereas a healthy frame of mind helps internees to maintain their physical health, it is no less true that a reasonable amount of physical exercise has a favourable effect on their mental balance. It was therefore quite right to include the provisions dealing with these two subjects in one and the same Article.
That was what the authors of the 1929 Convention had done. Article 17 of that Convention reads: "Belligerents shall encourage as much as possible the organization of intellectual and sporting pursuits by the prisoners of war."
This wording, however, appeared inadequate to the Government Experts consulted by the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1947. They pointed out that Detaining Powers could, without violating it in flagrant fashion, simply adopt a passive attitude and that it was desirable to require them to make a greater effort by laying more definite obligations on them.
Moreover, experience during the Second World War had shown that detaining authorities were generally ready to welcome the cooperation of relief societies, especially by authorizing them to provide detained persons with books and games. Article 94 takes this fact into account, and should be read in conjunction with Article 142 , which lays down that relief societies, and in particular the International [p.410] Committee of the Red Cross, are to receive "all facilities for distributing relief supplies and material from any source, intended for educational, recreational or religious purposes" and for assisting internees in organizing their "leisure time" within the places of internment.


The general rule is accompanied by an important proviso. The internees are to be ' free ' to take part or not in the intellectual, educational, and recreational pursuits, sports and games encouraged by the Detaining Power. It was essential that such activities should not be diverted from their original purpose, under certain influences, and used for propaganda. The best means of avoiding this danger was to allow the internees to take no part in any activity whose spirit might offend them (1).
In order to carry out its commitments in good faith, the Detaining Power must take "all practical measures" including, therefore, the measures implied by the application of Article 142 on the assistance given by relief societies. Experience has shown that with the best will in the world belligerents could not always make available such things as, for example, books written in the language of the persons detained. If such works were to be sent to them from outside, serious security problems would arise; for whereas the dignity of the internees demands that the Detaining Power abstain from all propaganda in its dealings with them, it is no less certain that that Power must have the means of blocking any move directed against itself. With a view to finding the best possible solution of this difficult question, the German Government and the British Red Cross agreed, during the last World War, to entrust the International Committee of the Red Cross with the task of forming an "Advisory Committee on Reading Matter for Prisoners." Books recommended
by this body, which began its work in February 1940, and consisted of several denominational or secular organizations (2), presided over by the [p.411] International Committee of the Red Cross, were generally accepted and the International Committee itself sent nearly a million and a half books to prisoner-of-war and internee camps, after first sorting, classifying and even repairing them (3).
The Detaining Power must provide the internees with "suitable premises", in particular properly heated libraries, reading rooms and class-rooms, and also gymnasiums and games rooms in cases where physical exercises cannot take place outside as recommended in paragraph 3 of this Article. The use of wireless is certainly restricted by the spirit underlying this paragraph. The fact that all belligerents use wireless for propaganda purposes makes it very unlikely that broadcasts would not lead to criticism from one quarter or another.
Finally, it should be pointed out that however useful and desirable the assistance of relief societies may be, their co-operation cannot relieve the Detaining Power of the obligations laid upon it under this Article. If such societies gave no assistance at all, the Detaining Power would nevertheless be bound to use all practical means to encourage intellectual, educational and recreational pursuits, sports and games among the internees.


Paragraph 2, which has no counterpart in the corresponding Article of the Prisoners of War Convention (Article 38 ), has nevertheless been largely drafted on the basis of results obtained, mainly in military prisoner-of-war camps, during the Second World War. The "Camp Universities" which were started in 1914-18 developed very considerably in 1940. In Germany, for instance, one such centre had as many as 3,000 student prisoners, divided among faculties of theology, law, literature, science and medicine. There were also laboratories, and the International Committee of the Red Cross was allowed to send them measuring instruments and research equipment. In the United Kingdom the prisoners received monthly publications issued by the Reich Ministry of Education, while in America a regular correspondence was carried on between certain universities and the prisoner-of-war camps. The International Committee received the manuscripts of scientific works from various places of detention and forwarded them to the home countries of the prisoners
concerned, the copyright being protected for them. Examinations were held [p.412] in the camps, and many universities and technical schools recognized their validity (4).
If such facilities could be granted to members of enemy armed forces, it was essential that they should not be refused to civilian internees, who, it must once more be pointed out, have not engaged in armed hostilities. Internees are men normally associated with the work of the country where they are detained, who have only been removed from their usual activities as a precautionary measure; their internment must not become in any way a punishment. For that matter enabling these people to improve their education during their captivity would be in the interests of everyone.
The same line of reasoning can be applied even more strongly to the case of internees' children, when they share their parents' internment. Those children represent the future and it is important that the future should be safeguarded. This provision is one more proof of the interest shown by the Geneva Conventions in child welfare. It represents a most useful addition to the provisions contained in Article 50 , which is one of the Articles (14 , 17 , 24 , 26 etc.) laying down exceptions to the ordinary regulations in favour of children and contains special provisions dealing with their care and education.


The internees must be given opportunities for physical exercise, which must not however be compulsory. The brevity of the provision in the 1929 Prisoners of War Convention gave a loophole for persecution of the prisoners, who were sometimes forced to double on an empty stomach round exercise yards (5). It was advisable to make express provision against any such danger. There is a general obligation on the Detaining Power to provide the internees with "open spaces" for outdoor games. The clause applies to "all" places of internment without exception.
The reference to special playgrounds and consequently separate dressing rooms for children and adolescents is due to the same feeling of respect for childhood, which we have already mentioned -- a feeling expressed in many places in the Convention.

Notes: (1) [(1) p.410] The amendment suggested for this purpose by
the British and Netherlands Delegates at the Diplomatic
Conference is in the same terms as the draft submitted by
the International Committee of the Red Cross (' Remarks
and Proposals ', p. 80);

(2) [(2) p.410] World's Alliance of Young Men's Christan
Associations, International Bureau of Education, World
Commission for Spiritual Aid to Prisoners of War, European
Student Relief, International Federation of Library
Associations, and Swiss Catholic Mission for Prisoners of

(3) [(1) p.411] See ' Report of the International Committee of
the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World
War ', Vol. I, p. 278, and Vol. III, pp. 288 ff.;

(4) [(1) p.412] See ' Report of the International Committee of
the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World
War ', Vol. I, pp. 279-280;

(5) [(2) p.412] See Maurice BRETONNI RE: ' L'application de la
Convention de Genève aux prisonniers français en Allemagne
durant la seconde guerre mondiale '. Thesis. Paris, p.