Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2020 
Article 63 : Transfer of funds
Text of the provision*
(1) Prisoners of war shall be permitted to receive remittances of money addressed to them individually or collectively.
(2) Every prisoner of war shall have at his disposal the credit balance of his account as provided for in the following Article, within the limits fixed by the Detaining Power, which shall make such payments as are requested. Subject to financial or monetary restrictions which the Detaining Power regards as essential, prisoners of war may also have payments made abroad. In this case payments addressed by prisoners of war to dependents shall be given priority.
(3) In any event, and subject to the consent of the Power on which they depend, prisoners may have payments made in their own country, as follows: the Detaining Power shall send to the aforesaid Power through the Protecting Power, a notification giving all the necessary particulars concerning the prisoners of war, the beneficiaries of the payments, and the amount of the sums to be paid, expressed in the Detaining Power’s currency. The said notification shall be signed by the prisoners and countersigned by the camp commander. The Detaining Power shall debit the prisoners’ account by a corresponding amount; the sums thus debited shall be placed by it to the credit of the Power on which the prisoners depend.
(4) To apply the foregoing provisions, the Detaining Power may usefully consult the Model Regulations in Annex V of the present Convention.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
None
Contents

A. Introduction
2973  The overall purpose of Article 63 is to grant prisoners of war the right to receive remittances of money and the right to use their financial resources for any purpose they consider necessary or appropriate. However, the exercise of these rights is subject to various limitations.
2974  Paragraph 1 obliges the Detaining Power to accept remittances of money addressed to prisoners of war individually or collectively. The Detaining Power has no legal basis under the Convention to refuse such remittances on the grounds of their origin or purpose. According to paragraph 2, the Detaining Power is also obliged to process payments at the request of prisoners of war whether in its own territory or abroad. For payments to be made in its own territory, the Detaining Power may fix limits on the kind or quantity of goods or services that the prisoners may purchase. Stricter limits may be applied to payments abroad. To protect its currency against depreciation, the Detaining Power may subject payments abroad to financial or monetary restrictions it considers essential. In this regard, it does not matter whether the payment is to be made in the prisoner’s country of origin or in a neutral State. If payments are destined for the prisoner’s dependents, they must be given priority.
2975  The Detaining Power may thus limit payments abroad considerably or prohibit them altogether. To prevent such limitations or prohibitions, a special procedure – ‘delegation of pay’ – is provided for in paragraph 3, which enables the Parties to a conflict to avoid having to make direct financial transfers between them. The details of the notification are specified in the Model Regulations concerning Payments Sent by Prisoners to their Own Country in Annex V of the Convention. According to Article 63(4), these Regulations are not, however, mandatory.
2976  In practice, States that send or receive funds pursuant to Article 63, including the Detaining Power, may have relevant obligations in this regard coming from sources of international law other than international humanitarian law, including those from sanctions regimes established by the UN Security Council under Chapter VII of the 1945 UN Charter, particularly asset freezes, against designated persons or entities. In general, whenever the UN Security Council establishes a sanctions regime, it must be presumed that it does so while complying with the applicable rules of international law, including humanitarian law. In such a situation, indeed, UN Member States’ obligations under humanitarian law remain intact unless some of them have been explicitly excluded, in a legally binding manner, by the UN Security Council, for example in terms of Article 63’s applicability vis-à-vis one or more prisoners of war.
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B. Historical background
2977  The 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War was the first multilateral treaty dealing with money transfers addressed to or made by prisoners of war, albeit in a rudimentary form.[1] Article 24, third paragraph, provided that ‘facilities shall be accorded to [prisoners of war] for the transfer of [the amounts placed on their accounts], wholly or in part, to banks or private individuals in their country of origin’. While the 1929 Convention contained no explicit rules on such transfers, a right to that effect was implicitly recognized in Article 38, which also exempted from all postal charges ‘remittances of money … addressed to prisoners of war, or despatched by them’.
2978  During the Second World War, many prisoners of war were allowed to send money regularly to their next of kin. These transfers sometimes gave rise to complaints, however, because of the arbitrary exchange rates fixed by States either through special agreements or in application of their monetary policy. Despite the explicit provisions contained in Article 38 of the 1929 Convention, wartime restrictions on transfers of capital generally prevented prisoners of war from receiving money.[2]
2979  The Conference of Government Experts, meeting in 1947 to review the 1929 Conventions, focused on the procedure applicable to payments by prisoners of war to their home countries.[3] Among their recommendations, the government experts ‘thought it useful to include among the financial resources of prisoners of war the consignments of money which they may receive individually …, even if, in practice, and especially in case of war, transfers of funds by private persons are beset with difficulties of all kinds’.[4] Moreover, they considered it ‘necessary to state clearly the right which prisoners enjoy of making use of their credit accounts’.[5] The 17th International Conference of the Red Cross held in Stockholm in 1948 accepted these recommendations. Draft article 53 adopted by the Conference thus already contained most of the provisions of what is today Article 63.[6]
2980  At the Diplomatic Conference in 1949, some doubts were raised as to whether the first paragraph of draft article 53 was necessary or even desirable.[7] While it soon became clear that ‘remittances of money’ addressed to prisoners of war are not limited to those made by the Power on which they depend, some delegates were afraid of ‘the creation of a sort of privilege …, thus giving rise to inequality between prisoners of war’.[8] However, other delegates wished to retain that part of the paragraph, arguing that ‘the same inequality already existed as regards the sending of individual relief parcels’.[9]
2981  The second part of the first paragraph adopted at the Stockholm Conference was deleted because the delegates at the Diplomatic Conference ‘failed to see why restrictions should be imposed on any remittances of money which the prisoner might receive’.[10] The words ‘or collectively’ were added ‘because it was considered that cash remittances or gifts intended for the whole body of prisoners in one camp could quite well be paid into the fund’ provided for in what is now Article 28.[11]
2982  While the first sentence of the second paragraph adopted at the Stockholm Conference was accepted without discussion,[12] some delegates were opposed to the second sentence for the following reasons:
1. It ‘imposed an obligation on the Detaining Power [which] would be compelled to obtain foreign currency merely to satisfy the wishes of the prisoners of war whom it detained. This was asking too much. In case of war, foreign currency was an economic weapon.’[13]
2. The 1929 Convention ‘only mentioned transfers to prisoners’ country of origin, and not to countries all over the world’.[14]
3. Prisoners of war are not entitled to equal treatment with the civilian population of the Detaining Power.[15] Those concerns were addressed by the adoption of the phrase ‘[s]ubject to financial or monetary restrictions considered essential by the Detaining Power’.[16]
A third sentence was inserted giving priority to payments to prisoners’ dependents.[17] The third paragraph was in principle accepted but was considered to lack the necessary details,[18] which were eventually included in an annex,[19] now Annex V. A fourth paragraph was added to this effect.[20]
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C. Paragraph 1: Remittances of money addressed to prisoners of war
2983  The right of prisoners of war to receive remittances of money is not limited to supplementary pay pursuant to Article 61 or to money transfers from abroad. Accordingly, the Detaining Power is obliged to permit such remittances irrespective of their origin and purpose. This means that the prisoners’ families – or friends – ‘may send remittances to be credited to the account of the individual prisoners of war’,[21] thus improving the prisoner’s financial situation.[22] The Detaining Power may not refuse individual money transfers, even if it has reason to believe that the resulting privileged situation of those who receive them could lead to envy or unrest among the other prisoners. The Detaining Power is also obliged to accept remittances of money addressed to the prisoners of war collectively. Such remittances would usually, but not necessarily, be made by organizations in the prisoners’ home countries. This does not, however, exclude remittances from neutral countries or from the territory of the Detaining Power.
2984  The obligation under Article 63(1) does not conflict with the application of Article 58, which limits the amount of money that prisoners may have in their possession. However, it follows from an interpretation of the first two paragraphs of Article 63 in the context of the provision as a whole that the Detaining Power may not prevent such remittances by reference to ‘financial or monetary restrictions’. The obligation under paragraph 1 rests solely with the Detaining Power. The Power on which the prisoners depend or neutral States remain free to prohibit money transfers for whatever reasons they think fit.[23]
2985  Remittances may be made to prisoners of war from within the territory of the Detaining Power. Accordingly, prisoners may receive remittances for work done during their off-time, such as the repair or manufacture of items.[24]
2986  When remittances are received in a currency other than that of the Detaining Power, two considerations must be kept in mind: (i) in line with Articles 58(1) and 18(4), the remittances ‘shall not be converted into any other currency’ unless with the consent or at the request of the prisoner of war who has received them; and (ii) if the prisoner of war decides to have the remittances converted into the currency of the Detaining Power to preserve purchasing power parity between currencies, the ICRC recommends that the conversion rate most commonly understood by economists as the ‘real’ exchange rate be used.[25]
2987  Pursuant to Article 74(2), exemption from postal dues applies to remittances of money addressed to and sent by prisoners of war.
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D. Paragraph 2: Payments
2988  According to Article 63(2), prisoners of war have a right to dispose of the credit balance of their accounts. The first sentence regulates payments made within the territory of the Detaining Power. The second sentence applies to payments made abroad, which may be restricted in accordance with financial or monetary restrictions considered essential by the Detaining Power.
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1. First sentence: Right of prisoners to use the credit balance of their accounts within the territory of the Detaining Power
2989  According to Article 58(2), prisoners of war may be permitted to purchase goods or services outside the camp. If they are not provided with means of payment which are valid outside the camp, the camp administration may make the payments at the prisoners’ request. In principle, the prisoners are free to decide which goods or services to purchase outside the camp. However, the Detaining Power is entitled to limit such purchases, since it cannot be compelled to accord to prisoners of war interned on its territory economic and financial facilities which are not available to its own nationals. Moreover, the Detaining Power may prohibit the purchase of goods it considers dangerous or inappropriate for use inside the camp. In light of this, the Detaining Power may impose restrictions that are more severe in the case of prisoners of war than in the case of the civilian population. Importantly, however, the purchase of legal services may not be denied, if these are necessary for the preparation and execution of documents pursuant to Article 77(2).
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2. Second and third sentences: Payments abroad
2990  The second sentence of Article 63(2) recognizes the right of prisoners of war to have payments made abroad, a facility not limited to payments destined for their own countries as the word ‘abroad’ applies to any foreign country. Accordingly, prisoners of war may have payments made to neutral States as well. The opening words of the third sentence (‘in this case’) do not justify limiting such payments to the prisoners’ own countries since their dependents may have moved to a neutral State. The provision obliges the Detaining Power merely to give priority to transfers to prisoners’ dependents because they may be in need of financial resources.
2991  The outstanding feature of the present provision is that it permits payments to be made abroad, but it is also from this measure that the principal difficulties may arise for the Detaining Power from both a monetary and a financial perspective. One option for addressing potential challenges may be to consider the involvement of a third-party clearing house, which, based on a special agreement between the Detaining Power and the Power on which the prisoners depend, will ensure that the funds can be transferred to and disbursed abroad. Should there be a need for currency conversion, the principles outlined above apply.[26] Alternatively, the Detaining Power may end up being compelled to purchase foreign exchange for the benefit of citizens of enemy (or neutral) countries, a requirement that would not easily be accepted. The obligation on the Detaining Power is therefore ‘[s]ubject to financial or monetary restrictions which [it] regards as essential’. Certain States apply such restrictions and either prohibit or limit international financial transactions to protect the stability of their currency. In time of armed conflict, such restrictions may be even more severe, if the currency in question of the Detaining Power has been depreciated. The use of the word ‘essential’, which means ‘absolutely necessary’, ‘extremely important’ or ‘central to the nature of something’,[27] might be understood as limiting the right of the Detaining Power to prohibit payments made abroad. However, the use of the verb ‘regards’ leaves the Detaining Power with considerable discretion to determine which restrictions it considers essential. In practice, this exception is so broad that it could prevent all transfers of funds abroad.[28]
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E. Paragraph 3: Delegation of pay
2992  To mitigate the difficulties discussed in the preceding section, Article 63(3) provides for a procedure other than international financial transactions that enables prisoners of war to have payments made in their own country (as distinct from neutral countries, for which the right of the Detaining Power to apply its financial or monetary restrictions is not limited).[29] Under that procedure – ‘delegation of pay’ – the Power on which the prisoners depend makes payments on its territory to the beneficiaries in the amounts requested by the prisoner.[30] The application of this system requires the consent of the Power on which the prisoners depend, because it is obliged to make the payments to the addressees without having received any payments from the Detaining Power. The payment by the Power on which the prisoners depend is justified because, based on Article 67, it anyway has to compensate the Detaining Power for the advances of pay at the end of active hostilities. It therefore does not risk any loss.
2993  According to the procedure, the Detaining Power forwards to the Power on which the prisoners depend, through the Protecting Power, a notification signed by the prisoner and countersigned by the camp commander (the details to be included are set out in Annex V) specifying the amount to be paid and the name and address of the payee. If the Parties to the conflict continue to maintain direct relations, there may be no need to involve the Protecting Power. While the ICRC is not explicitly mentioned as an alternative to the Protecting Power under Article 63, it has, both prior to and since 1949, ‘nevertheless performed many of the tasks usually assigned to Protecting Powers’.[31] Thus, the Detaining Power may invite the ICRC to act as a neutral intermediary to transmit the said notification. However, in line with its humanitarian activities in general and as a matter of international law, the ICRC is not obliged to accept such an invitation.[32]
2994  Today, in line with the provisions of Article 6 enabling them to conclude special agreements, the Parties to a conflict may agree on an electronic procedure, which will have to comply with applicable regulations governing such financial transactions. Payment is made by the Power receiving the notification and the Detaining Power debits the prisoner’s account by a corresponding amount: the sums thus debited will be placed to the credit of the Power to which the notification was addressed. This arrangement is subject to the consent of the Power on which the prisoner depends.
2995  The system of ‘delegation of pay’ provided for in Article 63(3) has not been used as such in any international armed conflict since 1949.
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F. Paragraph 4: Model Regulations
2996  The Model Regulations in Annex V contain certain conditions designed to afford all desirable safeguards in connection with the procedure for delegation of pay. It is recommended that the States party to the Convention respect these conditions when drawing up the notification referred to in Article 63(3). The Model Regulations are not mandatory, however; they serve merely as guidance in the absence of any other agreement.
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Select bibliography
Levie, Howard S., Prisoners of War in International Armed Conflict, International Law Studies, U.S. Naval War College, Vol. 59, 1978, pp. 194–212.

1 - For an earlier example in a bilateral treaty, see Agreement between Austria-Hungary and Italy concerning Prisoners of War and Civilians (1918), Article 50.
2 - ICRC, Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World War, Volume I: General Activities, ICRC, Geneva, May 1948, pp. 289–291.
3 - Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, p. 163.
4 - Draft Conventions submitted to the 1948 Stockholm Conference, p. 90.
5 - Ibid. p. 91.
6 - Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, pp. 73–74.
7 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, pp. 281 (United Kingdom) and 541.
8 - Ibid. p. 541 (Canada).
9 - Ibid. (Soviet Union).
10 - Ibid. pp. 281 (Finland) and 557. The first paragraph of draft article 53 of the Stockholm draft read: ‘Prisoners of war shall be permitted to receive remittances of money addressed to them individually, subject to the restrictions that the Protecting Power concerned may suggest to impose on those remittances, in the interest of the prisoners themselves.’ Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, p. 73.
11 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 557.
12 - Ibid. p. 543.
13 - Ibid. pp. 281 and 543 (United Kingdom).
14 - Ibid. p. 543 (United Kingdom).
15 - Ibid.
16 - Ibid.
17 - Ibid. pp. 543 and 557.
18 - Ibid. pp. 543–544.
19 - Ibid. pp. 544–545.
20 - Ibid. p. 557.
21 - Levie, p. 205.
22 - Post-1949 practice shows that prisoners of war were permitted to receive money transfers collectively from the Power on which they depended or from the ICRC, in particular to purchase items from the canteens.
23 - See also Levie, p. 206, fn. 459.
24 - Ibid. p. 206.
25 - For further details on the ‘real’ exchange rate, see the commentary on Article 60, para. 2911.
26 - See para. 2986 of this commentary.
27 - Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 12th edition, Oxford University Press, 2001, p. 488.
28 - See also Levie, p. 208: ‘[T]he prisoner of war in any future major international armed conflict will once again find his privileges in this regard severely limited, if not completely nullified, by the Detaining Power’s exchange regulations – which now have the added legitimacy of specific mention in the Convention.’
29 - See Silvia Sanna, ‘Treatment of Prisoners of War’, in Andrew Clapham, Paola Gaeta and Marco Sassòli (eds), The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary, Oxford University Press, 2015, p. 1005.
30 - This system is based on the 1930 Convention providing a Uniform Law for Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes, Geneva, 7 June 1930, League of Nations Treaty Series, Vol. 143, No. 3313; see Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 321. Nowadays, see also UN Convention on International Bills of Exchange and International Promissory Notes, adopted by UN General Assembly Res. 165 (XLIII), 9 December 1988, United Nations Treaty Depositary, Chapter 10(12).
31 - François Bugnion, The International Committee of the Red Cross and the Protection of War Victims, ICRC/Macmillan, Oxford, 2003, p. 871.
32 - See Introduction, section A.1.e, and in particular paras 50–51, and the commentary on Article 9, section C.1.