Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2020 
Article 66 : Winding up of prisoners’ accounts
Text of the provision
(1) On the termination of captivity, through the release of a prisoner of war or his repatriation, the Detaining Power shall give him a statement, signed by an authorized officer of that Power, showing the credit balance then due to him. The Detaining Power shall also send through the Protecting Power to the government upon which the prisoner of war depends, lists giving all appropriate particulars of all prisoners of war whose captivity has been terminated by repatriation, release, escape, death or any other means, and showing the amount of their credit balances. Such lists shall be certified on each sheet by an authorized representative of the Detaining Power.
(2) Any of the above provisions of this Article may be varied by mutual agreement between any two Parties to the conflict.
(3) The Power on which the prisoner of war depends shall be responsible for settling with him any credit balance due to him from the Detaining Power on the termination of his captivity.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
None[1]
Contents

A. Introduction
3033  The amounts due by the Detaining Power to prisoners of war on their release or repatriation are not paid to them in cash. Instead, the prisoners must receive a statement signed by an authorized officer showing all amounts due to them. Article 66 thus equips prisoners with the evidence necessary for any claims they may file with the Power on which they depend. The Detaining Power is also obliged to send, through the Protecting Power, if there is one, to the Power on which the prisoners depend a comprehensive list showing the credit balances of all prisoners’ accounts. The third paragraph obliges the Power on which the prisoners depend to settle with the prisoners (i.e. pay) the amounts the Detaining Power owes them.
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B. Historical background
3034  Like its predecessors,[2] the 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War required that the credit balances of prisoners’ accounts be paid to them at the end of their captivity.[3] The same applied to any working pay which remained to their credit.[4] If the prisoner of war had died in captivity, such credit had to ‘be remitted through the diplomatic channel to the heirs of the deceased’.[5]
3035  At the end of the Second World War, the laws and regulations enacted by most States in respect of the export and import of foreign currency made it very difficult to comply with these obligations.[6] Moreover, in some cases the necessary ‘vouchers’ for prisoners to receive the balance of their personal accounts were not issued by the Detaining Power, did not correspond to the sums claimed or had been lost.[7] Prisoners whose countries had been occupied and the government overthrown during the hostilities were unable to obtain their credit balances because the Power on which they had depended was in no position to reimburse the Detaining Power for any monies it advanced.[8] Therefore, rather than implementing Articles 24 and 34, the Powers concerned resorted to the procedure provided for in Article 83 of the 1929 Convention by entering into special agreements.
3036  The Conference of Government Experts, meeting in 1947 to review the 1929 Conventions, recommended that in case of repatriation or decease, a voucher for the balance of the prisoner of war’s personal account be sent to the government of his home country, with a similar document also to be provided to the repatriated prisoners.[9] However, the Conference was unable to agree on the issue of credit balances, and instead recommended that pay, additional allowances and all sums transferred be made the subject of settlement between the governments concerned after the close of hostilities.[10]
3037  Draft article 56 adopted by the 17th International Conference of the Red Cross in Stockholm in 1948 provided that, in case of the death or release during hostilities of a prisoner, ‘a document attesting the credit balance of his account shall be sent to the Power on which he depended’.[11] The same applied to repatriated prisoners, to whom ‘a duplicate of any such document shall likewise be handed’.[12] Regarding the settlement of credit balances of the accounts of prisoners released and repatriated after the close of hostilities, a third paragraph of the draft article required that, in the absence of a special agreement between the Powers, these ‘be paid in cash by the Detaining Power to the persons concerned’.[13]
3038  At the Diplomatic Conference in 1949, the delegates suggested amending the first two paragraphs of draft article 56 to include escaped prisoners.[14] Regarding the third paragraph, they also proposed:
[T]he Detaining Power, failing any special agreement, should give each prisoner of war who was repatriated a document attesting the credit balance of his account. It would be preferable for a prisoner of war to have a document establishing the state of his account rather than to receive a sum of money in the currency of the Detaining Power; the latter would be valueless in the case of a defeated Power.[15]
3039  While these proposals were accepted, a separate paragraph was added allowing the Powers concerned to modify the procedural rules by special agreement.[16] Given the difficulties surrounding direct payments encountered by Detaining Powers when winding up prisoners’ accounts during and after the Second World War,[17] it is not surprising that the delegates were reluctant to adopt a provision as proposed in the third paragraph of draft article 56.[18] They felt that it might lead to the Detaining Power being obliged, at the end of the war, to pay not only its own troops but also all the prisoners of war it had detained.[19] A close majority of the delegates, therefore, preferred a rule to the effect that the Power on which the prisoner of war depended would be responsible for settling any credit balance due to that prisoner from the Detaining Power on the termination of his captivity.[20] The provision eventually adopted,[21] therefore, differed substantially from the draft adopted in Stockholm.
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C. Paragraph 1: Procedure
3040  Article 66(1) regulates the procedure that the Detaining Power must follow on the termination of prisoners’ captivity, so that the prisoners and the Power on which they depend have all the information they need for the prisoners to receive the balances of their accounts.
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1. First sentence: Issue of a signed statement to the prisoner
3041  The first sentence applies on termination of a prisoner’s captivity through their release or repatriation (covered by Articles 109–119). In the ICRC’s experience in international armed conflicts since the Second World War, such certificates have been issued in the days just prior to repatriation. In terms of its temporal scope of application, this provision applies at the termination of each prisoner’s captivity, regardless of whether hostilities have ended between the Parties to the conflict concerned. In this respect, Article 66 differs from Article 67.
3042  Instead of receiving the balance of their accounts in cash at the end of their captivity, prisoners must be given a ‘statement’ showing the credit balance due to them. The Convention does not specify what form this statement should take and merely requires that it be signed by an ‘authorized’ or competent officer, i.e. an officer belonging to the administration of the camp where the prisoner concerned was interned.[22] The officer’s competence must be attested by an official seal or stamp, so that in case of dispute the necessary verifications may be made.[23]
3043  The signed statement is a substitute for payments in cash that are no longer made to the prisoners by the Detaining Power but, according to Article 66(3), by the Power on which the prisoners depend. Accordingly, the statement is to enable the prisoners to prove to the authorities of the Power on which they depend the amounts that they are entitled to receive after their return.
3044  While Article 66(1) does not specify what information should be provided in the statement, useful guidance in this regard may be deduced from Article 64. While technically not applicable here, as a matter of good practice it is advisable that the statement issued based on Article 66(1) contains the following:
– The amounts due by the Detaining Power, i.e.:
- working pay (Article 62)
- amounts derived from other sources, such as pay for work done during off-time, remittances of money (Article 63(1)) and supplementary pay (Article 61)
- sums taken from the prisoner upon capture that are either in the currency of the Detaining Power or converted into that currency at the prisoner’s request (Article 59)[24]
– The amounts due by the Power on which the prisoner depends, i.e.:
- advances of pay (Article 60).
Having this level of detail in the statement will be important to each individual prisoner, to allow for all forms of payment to be administered accordingly.
3045  The exact format of the statement could be a matter of agreement between the Parties under Article 66(2).
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2. Second sentence: Lists
3046  The scope of the second sentence is broader than that of the first in that it applies not only to repatriation and release, but also to any termination of captivity, including through successful escape or death. Moreover, the lists the Detaining Power must send, through the Protecting Power, to the Power on which the prisoners depend must be more detailed than the statement required by the first sentence: they must (1) give ‘all appropriate particulars of all prisoners of war’ and (2) include ‘the amount of their credit balance[s]’.[25]
3047  The ‘appropriate particulars’ include, but are not limited to, the information that must be provided pursuant to Article 122(4).
3048  The information concerning the amount of the prisoners’ credit balances is identical to that which must be shown on the individual statements given to the prisoners in accordance with the first sentence, i.e. the amounts due to them by the Detaining Power and by the Power on which they depend.
3049  The question arises as to how this provision may be complied with when no Protecting Power or substitute has been appointed, as has been the case in most international armed conflicts since the adoption of the Conventions in 1949.[26] The absence of a Protecting Power or a substitute does not relieve the Detaining Power of its obligation to provide the prescribed lists. Accordingly, States should endeavour to appoint either a Protecting Power or a substitute. Failing this, they should ensure that the objective of involving a Protecting Power can still be achieved. To do so, they may inform each other bilaterally, or otherwise ensure that an impartial humanitarian organization, such as the ICRC, is permitted to forward the lists.[27]
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3. Third sentence: Certification
3050  According to the third sentence of Article 66(1), the lists provided for in the second sentence must be ‘certified on each sheet by an authorized representative of the Detaining Power’. The representative who certifies each sheet must be ‘authorized’ to authenticate the certificates on behalf of the Detaining Power.
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D. Paragraph 2: Special agreements
3051  According to Article 66(2), the Powers concerned may agree on a different procedure from that provided for in paragraph 1. Such an agreement would be a special agreement covered by, and which will need to respect the conditions of, Article 6 (where it is explicitly mentioned as such).[28]
3052  The Detaining Power may not always be able to issue a statement to each prisoner of war at the end of captivity or to send to the Power on which the prisoners depend comprehensive lists showing all the prescribed details. Any procedure agreed upon, however, may not result in the prisoners being deprived of their right to acquire the information necessary to prove their entitlement to reimbursement of their credit balances by the Power on which they depend.[29]
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E. Paragraph 3: Responsibility for the settlement of credit balances
3053  Article 66(3) places on the Power on which the prisoners depend ‘the responsibility for actually settling the account’[30] in the amounts due to the prisoners concerned by the Detaining Power.
3054  This provision does not lay down the procedure by which a claim may be settled between the prisoner and the Power on which they depend. The Power on which the prisoner depends may need to enact domestic regulations on how such claims may be made and processed. The implementation of such a system, however, does not give that Power the right to deny prisoners payment of the amounts due.
3055  One problem that arises in relation to this system of settlement is the rate of exchange. The amounts credited to a prisoner of war are expressed in the Detaining Power’s currency and must be recorded as such in the individual statements given to the prisoners, as well as in the lists forwarded to the Power concerned. With regard to converting money into another currency, to maintain prisoners’ purchasing power in a fair way, the ICRC recommends that the conversion rate most commonly understood by economists as the ‘real’ exchange rate be used.[31]
3056  A final problem relates to prisoners of war who belong to States that have capitulated. At the 1949 Diplomatic Conference, the use of the phrase ‘Power in whose service the prisoner was’ was rejected in favour of ‘the Power on which the prisoner of war depends’.[32] That Power may be in such disarray and dysfunction that the prisoner has no means of claiming the amounts due. This may lead to an unjust situation, particularly regarding amounts due by the former Detaining Power, since it leaves in the possession of that Power sums of money belonging to the prisoners. In such circumstances, the Detaining Power should pay to the prisoners the amounts it owes them. The ICRC may also use its good offices to ensure that the prisoners recover what is their due from the former Detaining Power. The Convention does not make provision for an intervention of this kind, but it is fully consistent with the intention of the authors of the Convention, who made it clear that prisoners should not suffer injustice but, rather, that their property should be safeguarded.
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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.
Okada, Izumi, ‘Legal Materials: State Practice of Asian Countries in the Field of International Law’, Asian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 5, 1995, pp. 245–252.
Sanna, Silvia, ‘Treatment of Prisoners of War’, in Andrew Clapham, Paola Gaeta and Marco Sassòli (eds), The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary, Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 977–1012.

1 - Upon signature of the four Geneva Conventions in 1949, Italy made the following declaration: ‘The Italian Government declares that it makes a reservation in respect of the last paragraph of Article 66 of the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.’ United Nations Treaty Series, Vol. 75, p. 438. This reservation was not formally confirmed on ratification and is therefore not in force. On the validity of reservations in such a case, see the commentary on Article 137, para. 5412.
2 - Brussels Declaration (1874), Article 25, para. 3; Hague Regulations (1899), Article 6, para. 5; Hague Regulations (1907), Article 6, para. 5.
3 - Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War (1929), Article 24, para. 2.
4 - Ibid. Article 34, para. 5.
5 - Ibid.
6 - ICRC, Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on its Activities during the Second World War (September 1, 1939–June 30, 1947), Volume I: General Activities, ICRC, Geneva, May 1948, p. 291.
7 - Ibid. p. 293.
8 - The Japanese Government, by permission of the Supreme Allied Commander, was allowed, ‘as part of the occupation policy and by way of exception to the general prohibitions, to pay the total amounts of earnings of repatriated Japanese POWs during their detention’. See Okada, p. 251, on the decision of the Tokyo High Court of 5 March 1993.
9 - Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, p. 162.
10 - Ibid. pp. 162–163.
11 - Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, p. 75.
12 - Ibid.
13 - Ibid.
14 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 282.
15 - Ibid. See also pp. 547–549.
16 - Ibid. p. 549.
17 - Ibid. p. 548.
18 - Ibid. pp. 547–549.
19 - Ibid. p. 282.
20 - Ibid. p. 476. It must be noted that there was some disagreement on whether the obligation should rest rather on the ‘Power in whose service the prisoner was’; ibid. p. 549.
21 - Ibid. pp. 386 and 589.
22 - In this line, the French version of the Convention refers to an ‘officier compétent’.
23 - Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 327.
24 - Sums taken from prisoners of war in currencies other than that of the Detaining Power must be restored to them by the Detaining Power upon repatriation in accordance with Article 119(2), or otherwise despatched to the national information bureau. According to Article 122(9), this also applies to prisoners who have been released. See also Levie, p. 210, fn. 474.
25 - See also Sanna, who describes such provisions as being ‘aimed at enabling POWs to prove their entitlement to the sums certified by the Detaining Power’ and at ensuring the fulfilment of the Detaining Power’s responsibility for settling the account with the prisoners; Sanna, p. 1005. For preceding practice from the Second World War, see ‘MacArthur in Japan: The Occupation: Military Phase’, Reports of General MacArthur, Volume I Supplement, Washington, D.C., 1966, reprinted 1994, p. 114.
26 - See the commentary on Article 8, section H.
27 - See Introduction, section A.1.e, in particular paras 50–51, and the commentary on Article 9, para. 1316.
28 - See, however, Levie, p. 211, fn. 476: ‘The agreed variations would certainly apply only to the two belligerents concerned. This provision clearly removes Article 66 from the purview of the first paragraph of Article 6 of the Convention.’
29 - It has been argued that allowance must also be made for credits arising out of the transfer of funds under Article 63 and payments made by the Power on which a prisoner depends under Article 68 in response to compensatory claims arising out of occupational accidents or property loss; see Sanna, p. 1006.
30 - Levie, p. 210. See also United States, Law of War Manual, 2016, p. 583, para. 9.18.6.5, and Air Force Pamphlet, 1976, p. 13–6.
31 - For further details on conversion rates, see the commentary on Article 60, para. 2911. See also Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 331. For the historical background to this provision, see also Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, pp. 282 and 548–549; Levie, p. 197, fn. 426; and ICRC, Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross on its Activities during the Second World War (September 1, 1939–June 30, 1947), Volume I: General Activities, ICRC, Geneva, May 1948, pp. 283–284.
32 - See Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 549.