Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2020 
Article 45 : Treatment of other prisoners of war
Text of the provision*
(1) Prisoners of war other than officers and prisoners of equivalent status shall be treated with the regard due to their rank and age.
(2) Supervision of the mess by the prisoners themselves shall be facilitated in every way.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
None
Contents

A. Introduction
2601  Article 45 is the last of three provisions in Chapter VII of the Third Convention containing rules regarding notification of military titles and ranks and the treatment owed to the holders of these ranks when they become prisoners of war.[1] It complements Article 44, which requires that officers and prisoners of equivalent status be afforded preferential treatment. For its part, Article 45 provides that the hierarchical structure based on rank and age among prisoners of war other than officers and prisoners of equivalent status must be retained and respected during their captivity.[2]
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B. Historical background
2602  The corresponding provisions in the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War concerned only officers and persons of equivalent status.[3] The addition of a new article dealing with prisoners of war other than officers and persons of equivalent status was proposed during the Diplomatic Conference in 1949.[4] It was argued that if it was considered essential to include an article on the differential treatment of officers, a similar provision covering prisoners who are not officers was equally necessary. An ICRC proposal to restrict the application of this article to non-commissioned officers was rejected by certain States,[5] and the broader text, as initially proposed, was retained.[6]
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C. Paragraph 1: Treatment of prisoners of war other than officers
2603  Article 45 uses the same basic wording as Article 44(1) and (3) as the same considerations apply to prisoners of war who are not officers or prisoners of equivalent status. The Detaining Power must treat, during their captivity, all other prisoners of war with the regard due to their rank and age. The article specifies military rank and age as criteria for the treatment of prisoners of war that is more generally required under Article 16.
2604  Respecting the rank and age of captive soldiers leaves the hierarchy of the battlefield intact in prisoner-of-war camps and as such serves the interests both of the Detaining Power and of the Power on which the prisoners depend. Retaining a functioning command structure among prisoners of war of one Party will usually have a positive effect on camp order and discipline, which can be an important factor in ensuring the best possible conditions of internment for all prisoners of war.[7] While Article 44 provides for special privileges for higher ranks as one way of maintaining this structure, Article 45 makes it clear that all soldiers who have fallen into the power of the enemy must be treated with the respect due to their rank and age.
2605  In Article 45(1), the drafters did not include an exhaustive list of the measures that the Detaining Power must take. The use of the more flexible wording signifies that such measures will depend largely on the context.
2606  Practice following the Second World War shows that Detaining Powers have generally respected the distinction between officers and non-officers. More often than not, officers have been afforded better conditions and treatment than those falling under Article 45.[8]
2607  It should be emphasized that while treatment may be varied based on rank, Article 43(1) requires equal treatment for prisoners of equivalent rank. No matter what rank a prisoner holds, however, the treatment they receive must not fall below the minimum standard of humane treatment and respect for their person required by the present Convention.[9]
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D. Paragraph 2: Organization of the prisoners’ mess
2608  Article 45(2) specifies that supervision of the mess by the prisoners themselves must be facilitated in every way. A ‘mess’ is a ‘place in which members of the armed forces take their meals’.[10]
2609  While the English version of the Convention uses the word ‘supervision’, the equally authentic French version uses the word ‘gestion’ (‘management’), which is broader in meaning. Based on the general rules of treaty interpretation,[11] the French wording has to be reconciled with the English version. Doing so shows that the drafters intended Article 45(2) to have an active managerial component that goes, to some extent, beyond mere supervision. Article 45(2) is in line with Article 26(4), which requires that the Detaining Power permit prisoners of war to be involved as far as possible in the preparation of their meals. The management of the mess provided for in Article 45(2) not only concerns the preparation of food but grants prisoners a certain amount of freedom to organize activities in the mess, which is also used for recreational purposes.
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Select bibliography
See the select bibliographies of the commentaries on Articles 43 and 44.

1 - See also Articles 43–44.
2 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, pp. 267–268.
3 - Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War (1929), Articles 21–22.
4 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, pp. 267–268.
5 - Ibid. pp. 358–359.
6 - Ibid. p. 585.
7 - See e.g. Canada, Code of Conduct After Capture for the Canadian Forces, 2004, p. 4-1, which reads: ‘Principles of leadership always apply. … If you are captured and are senior in rank, take command. Your leadership skills will be more important than ever before. Use the principles of leadership to guide your problem solving. The principle “lead by example” is particularly important.’
8 - See the commentary on Article 44, para. 2590.
9 - See, in particular, Articles 13 and 14.
10 - Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 12th edition, Oxford University Press, 2011, p. 897. See also Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 252.
11 - See the commentary on Article 133, para. 5353.