Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 1958 

[p.432] This article, which was adopted without discussion at the Diplomatic Conference, reproduces the corresponding Article of the Stockholm Draft. It is based on experience gained during the Second World War and prohibits the inhuman practices which went on at certain concentration camps. Those practices have incidentally already been condemned under Article 27 .


The principle laid down here in the regulations for internment is simply the application to a particular case of the general principle, valid for all protected persons, that they are entitled "in all circumstances to respect for their persons" and must "at all times be humanely treated". The significance of these essential principles was stressed in the commentary on Article 27 of the Convention.
Even if the attitude adopted by internees results in the infliction of punishment -- a subject dealt with in Article 117 and those which follow it -- it is formally stipulated that "in no case shall disciplinary penalties be inhuman". There was all the more need to establish the fact that the regulations governing discipline in places of internment could not be such that their mere implementation, without any fault on the part of the internee, might be equivalent for them to an inhuman punishment.
It must again be stressed that internment is not a punishment. The various respections which it places on the internees' freedom to exercise their rights are only justified by conditions affecting the Detaining Power's security, and anything which attacks the internees' personal dignity without being necessary for security reasons, is to be banned as inhuman. Certain measures which would probably facilitate the task of surveillance, such as tattooing the detainees, are prohibited because of their serious effect on the dignity of the person.


In order to make the provision clearer, paragraph 2 gives some examples of measures which are prohibited. Besides tattooing, mentioned [p.433] in the previous paragraph, it indicates provisions which it is essential to omit from any regulations. (The list cannot be considered exhaustive, as the inclusion of the words "in particular" shows). Physical exercise is prohibited if it is of a "punitive" nature, that is to say if it is organized in such a way as to affect the health or the dignity of those concerned; military manoeuvres are also prohibited (they are particularly out of place in the case of civilians). Reduction of food rations, again, is obviously a punishment and must be prohibited in regulations which are governed by the provisions of the Convention relating to penal and disciplinary sanctions (Article 117 and those which follow it).