Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 1958 

This Article adds very little to the provision of Article 40 of the 1929 Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. In view of the fact that censorship and examination of telegrams, letters, parcels, cannot possibly be avoided, the best way of helping the internees was to make the delays resulting from it as short as possible. The measures authorized by Article 107 with regard to a possible restriction of the volume of correspondence also aim at removing any excuse for delaying the delivery of mail or relief consignments for reasons of censorship. Restricted, if need be, to certain limits, mail and relief consignments must be examined "as quickly as possible".


The use in correspondence of languages which are little known in the country of internment may cause delay in the forwarding of mail. The Conference of Government Experts called in 1947 by the International Committee of the Red Cross therefore noted the following request submitted by one delegation with regard to prisoners of war: "In the event of belligerents being unable to provide a sufficient number of their own nationals to ensure prompt censorship of letters, they shall endeavour to obtain, either from the International Committee of the Red Cross or from neutral countries, such additional qualified censors as will enable correspondence to reach prisoners of war with the least possible delay" (1). This idea was rejected by the [p.470] Diplomatic Conference in respect of internees and of prisoners of war alike. However, during the discussion, it was accepted that if it should be necessary to recruit extra censors, the Protecting Power would be asked to appoint them (2).


Parcels which cannot be examined by the Detaining Power in the presence of the internee, would be examined in the presence of a fellow-internee duly delegated by him. This measure is intended to prevent any misappropriation. In general, the fellow-internee duly delegated by the addressee will be the member of the Internee Committee entrusted with the task of receiving and distributing relief supplies in accordance with Article 109 . A reference to the competence of the Internee Committee was, however, avoided in the Convention, because it was wished to leave the person concerned the opportunity of appointing someone as his delegate who was not a member of the Internee Committee, to cover cases where he did not have complete confidence in any of its members (3). This is a subtlety which should be noted as illustrating the anxiety of the authors of the Convention to respect individual feelings as far as possible.


This rule, which was already contained in the 1929 Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, was not often invoked during the Second World War (4). It has been retained to cover cases of military or political necessity but may only be applied as an exceptional and temporary measure. Suspension of this nature should be regarded more as the equivalent with regard to internees of a general measure affecting the whole population because of particularly serious circumstances, like the suspension of correspondence in Great Britain for a brief period in 1944 before the landing in France.

Notes: (1) [(1) p.469] See ' Report on the Work of the Conference of
Government Experts, ' Geneva, 1947, p. 194;

(2) [(1) p.470] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic
Conference of Geneva of 1949, ' Vol. II-A, p. 288;

(3) [(2) p.470] There have been cases of political factions
being formed in camps, laying down the law and persecuting
in various ways internees or prisoners of war of contrary

(4) [(3) p.470] See M. BRETONNI RE, op. cit., p. 244;