International Committee of the Red Cross
International Committee of the Red Cross
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War & Law
Who we are
What we do
Where we work
War & Law
Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
Treaties and Documents
Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
This Commentary would not have been possible without the involvement of numerous persons, and the ICRC expresses its gratitude to all of them. We apologize to anyone whose name may have been inadvertently omitted.
The Editorial Committee supervised the drafting and reviewed all drafts prior to the peer-review process and again prior to publication. It consisted of: Knut Dörmann, Head of the ICRC Delegation to the European Union, NATO and the Kingdom of Belgium; Cordula Droege, ICRC Chief Legal Officer and Head of the Legal Division; Helen Durham, ICRC Director of International Law and Cooperation; Philip Spoerri, Head of the ICRC Delegation in the Syrian Arab Republic; Liesbeth Lijnzaad, Judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea and Professor of the Practice of International Law at the University of Maastricht; Marco Sassòli, Director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Professor of International Law at the University of Geneva and Associate Professor of International Law at the University of Quebec in Montreal; and Brigadier General (ret.) Kenneth “Ken” Watkin, QC, former Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Forces.
ICRC project team
The ICRC project team was composed of Jean-Marie Henckaerts, who, as head of project, was responsible for the project’s overall coordination and final harmonization, Bruno Demeyere, Heleen Hiemstra, Yvette Issar, Eve La Haye and Heike Niebergall-Lackner, legal advisers in the ICRC Legal Division.
The project team received invaluable support in research, drafting and finalization from Jemma Arman, Ellen Nohle and Clementine Rendle, as well as from Kubo Mačák, Kvitoslava Krotiuk and Mikhail Orkin.
The project team organized, coordinated and supervised the research, drafting and review of this Commentary throughout the various stages. In addition, it conducted most of the background research for the drafts of both ICRC and external contributors. Its members also contributed numerous drafts, revised, edited and harmonized all the drafts and integrated the peer-review feedback, in consultation with the authors.
We gratefully acknowledge the administrative support provided by Renée Bretton throughout the process.
The Reading Committee consisted of external contributors, in addition to the project team and some other ICRC staff members listed below. Its members reviewed the drafts to ensure the cross-subject coherence and overall consistency of the Commentary. It comprised:
– François Bugnion, honorary Member of the ICRC Assembly
– Catherine Deman, former Head of the Protection of Persons Deprived of Liberty unit, Protection Division, ICRC
– Prof. Gloria Gaggioli, Swiss National Science Foundation Professor, Department of Public International Law and International Organization, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva
– Colonel (ret.) Charles H.B. Garraway, former member and Vice-President, International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission and Fellow at the Human Rights Centre, University of Essex
– Prof. Julia Grignon, Associate Professor, Laval University Faculty of Law, Director of Osons le DIH! and Co-Director of the International Criminal and Humanitarian Law Clinic
– Prof. Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg, Chair of Public Law, Europa-Universität Viadrina (Viadrina European University), Frankfurt (Oder) and President of the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War
– Prof. Jann K. Kleffner, Professor of International Law and Head of the International Law Centre, Swedish Defence University, Stockholm
– Prof. Bruce Oswald, Professor and Director of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Military Law, Melbourne Law School
– Claude Schenker, Head of Treaty Section, Directorate of International Law, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs
– Prof. Sandesh Sivakumaran, University Reader in International Law, University of Cambridge
– Prof. Gary Solis, Professor of Law (ret.), United States Military Academy at West Point
– Prof. Haiping Wang, Professor of International Law, Department of Military Judicial Law, Politics Institute, People’s Liberation Army National Defence University, China
– Prof. Sean M. Watts, Professor, Creighton University Law School and Lieutenant Colonel (ret.), US Army.
ICRC protection advisers Catherine Deman and Anna Leshchinskaya and legal advisers Alexander Breitegger, Ellen Nohle, Tilman Rodenhäuser and Sylvain Vité also provided comments on drafts alongside the Reading Committee.
The draft commentaries on the articles that are specific to the Third Convention were submitted to a broad and geographically representative group of 48 peer reviewers, who, between December 2017 and August 2019, reviewed and provided invaluable feedback on the drafts in their personal capacity. The feedback from the peer-review group has played a very important part in the completion of the drafting process. The peer-review process did not cover the articles that are common to the four Conventions and whose commentaries were already published as part of the updating of the Commentaries on the First and Second Geneva Conventions in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The peer-review process would not have been possible without the assistance of ICRC legal advisers in delegations around the world.
The peer-review group consisted of the following persons:
Mario Oyarzábal, Legal Adviser, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Worship of the Republic of Argentina.
Prof. Vladimir Vardanyan, Chair of the Standing Committee on State and Legal Affairs of the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia; former Executive Director of the International Analytical Centre ‘Constitutional Culture’; former Chief Specialist of the Legal Advisory Service of the Staff of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia.
Air Commodore (Res.) Chris Hanna, Royal Australian Air Force Reserve; former Director General, Australian Defence Force Legal Services.
Brigadier General Muhammad Sajjad Siddique, The Judge Advocate General, Bangladesh Army.
Prof. Mohammad Nazmuzzaman Bhuian, Professor, Department of Law, University of Dhaka.
Prof. Andrey L. Kozik, Associate Professor, KIMEP University; Secretary-General of the Belarus International Law and Arbitration Association.
Colonel Carlos F. Cinelli, Professor of International Humanitarian Law, Brasilia War College and Army Command and General Staff College, Brazilian Army.
Prof. (ret.) Xiao Fengcheng, Military Law Center, School of Law, China University of Political Science and Law.
Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaodong, Research Fellow, Military Legal Systems Institute, Academy of Military Science of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army.
Prof. Ayman Abdelaziz Salama, Visiting Professor of International Law, Nasser Higher Military Academy, Egypt.
Ambassador Ibrahim Idris, Adviser, Boundary and Trans-boundary Resources Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.
Brigadier General (Dr) Aziz Mohammed, Deputy Commander, Strategic Headquarters, Republic of Fiji Military Forces.
Camille Péron, Legal Adviser in International Humanitarian Law, Law of Armed Conflict Section, Legal Affairs Department, Ministry of the Armed Forces.
Prof. Michael Bothe, Professor emeritus of Public Law, Institut für Öffentliches Recht, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt am Main.
Prof. Maria Daniella Marouda, Assistant Professor in International Law, Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, Jean Monnet Chair, Panteion University of Social and Political Studies; First Vice Chair, Hellenic Red Cross; Vice Chair A, European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, Council of Europe.
Major General (ret.) Nilendra Kumar, Director, Lex Consilium Foundation and former Judge Advocate General, Indian Army.
Brigadier General (ret.) Natsri Anshari, Consultant for Cooperation with the Military, ICRC Regional Delegation in Jakarta (covering Indonesia and Timor-Leste).
Colonel (Dr) Tiarsen Buaton, Head of Postgraduate Programme, Military Law College, Indonesian Army.
Prof. Djamchid Momtaz, Professor of Public International Law, University of Tehran; former Member and President of the UN International Law Commission.
Prof. Pouria Askary, Assistant Professor of Public International Law and Human Rights Law, Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, Allameh Tabataba’i University, Tehran.
Prof. Ahmed Aubais Alfatlawi, Professor of Public International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Kufa.
Colonel (Dr) Eran Shamir-Borer, Head of the International Law Department, Military Advocate General’s Corps, Israel Defense Forces.
Prof. Kyo Arai, Faculty of Law, Doshisha University, Kyoto.
Korea (Republic of)
Prof. Sung Jae-Ho, Professor, Law School, Sungkyunkwan University.
Prof. Eisa Elenzy, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, Kuwait University.
Colonel Azlan Abdul Ghani, Head of Strategic Studies and International Relations, Malaysian Armed Forces Defence College, National Defence University of Malaysia.
Wing Commander Tim Wood, Defence Legal Services, New Zealand Defence Force.
Prof. Theresa U. Akpoghome, Faculty of Law, Benson Idahosa University, Benin City.
Lieutenant Oluwatosin Olayinka Ajayi and Lieutenant Fatima Musah, Directorate of Legal Services, Nigerian Army.
Prof. Muhammad Munir, Vice-President and former Director General of the Shariah Academy; Professor of Law, former Vice President of Higher Studies & Research and former Chairman of the Department of Law, International Islamic University, Islamabad.
Prof. Elizabeth Salmón, Professor of International Law, Faculty of Law, and Executive Director, Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, Pontifical Catholic University of Peru.
Prof. Uzeyir Mammadov, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, International and European Law Department, Kazan Federal University.
Prof. Hennie Strydom, Professor in Public International Law, Faculty of Law, University of Johannesburg.
Kristina Lindvall, Senior Legal Adviser, and Helena Sunnegårdh, Legal Adviser, with the assistance of Therese Garmstedt, Legal Adviser, Office of the Secretary-General, Swedish Red Cross.
Colonel (Dr) Godard Busingye, Deputy Chief of Legal Services, Uganda People’s Defence Forces.
Prof. Françoise Hampson, Emeritus Professor of Law, Human Rights Centre and School of Law, University of Essex.
Brigadier (ret.) David Neal and Brigadier Vivienne Buck, Provost Marshall (Army), with the assistance of Major John D. Wharton, MBE, Major Jason M. Hutchinson, Major Leighton C. Snook and Captain Robert D. Moffat, Adjutants Generals Corps (Military Provost Staff), British Army.
Prof. Peter Rowe (deceased), Emeritus Professor in Law, Law School, University of Lancaster.
Prof. Mykola Gnatovsky, Professor of International Law, Taras Shevchenko National University, Kyiv; President, European Committee for the Prevention of Torture; First Vice-President, Ukrainian Association of International Law.
United States of America
Colonel (ret.) Richard B. ‘Dick’ Jackson, former Special Assistant to the Army Judge Advocate General for Law of War Matters.
Prof. Jennifer Daskal, Professor and Faculty Director, Tech, Law, Security Program, American University Washington College of Law.
International and other organizations
United Nations: Stephen Mathias, Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs, with the assistance of Keiichiro Okimoto, Legal Officer, Office of Legal Affairs.
International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies: Lucie Laplante, General Counsel and Director of the Legal Department, and Jennifer Breckenridge, Senior Officer, Operational Movement and Membership Coordination, Programmes and Operations Division, with the assistance of Teresa Camacho and Leslie Haskell, Senior Legal Advisers, and Jérôme Massé, Legal Consultant, Legal Department.
Human Rights Watch: James Ross, Legal and Policy Director.
Additional peer reviewers
Prof. Neville Wylie, Deputy Principal (Internationalisation), University of Stirling, Scotland; former Associate Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement (Americas) and Professor of International Political History, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham.
Francesco Bruscoli, Detention Adviser, Persons Deprived of Liberty unit, ICRC.
In addition to the ICRC staff mentioned above, numerous additional ICRC staff members provided valuable feedback, advice and support.
Special thanks are due to Alexander Breitegger (medical care, rights of persons with disabilities, equality of treatment), Lindsey Cameron (prisoners of war, beginning and end of application), Vanessa Murphy (equality of treatment, protection of women and children, sexual violence) and Jelena Pejic (prisoners of war, beginning and end of application, general protection, questioning, penal and disciplinary sanctions), who reviewed many drafts and contributed insights from their respective fields of expertise.
In addition, the project benefited from the advice of other members of the ICRC Legal Division, as well as lawyers in ICRC delegations around the world.
Numerous other colleagues reviewed and commented on drafts related to their field of expertise: Sarah Dwidar (data protection); Paul Bouvier and Carole Drömer (health in detention and medical ethics); Vincent Ballon and Francesco Bruscoli (protection); Andres Casal (assistance); Morris Tidball-Binz and Oran Finegan (prescriptions regarding the dead); Valerie Belchior-Bellino (nutrition); Daniel Messerli (national information bureaux, Central Tracing Agency); Daniel Palmieri (historical introduction); and Luigi Fratini, Anastasia Kushleyko, Ken Hume, Fiona Terry and Anne Quintin (dissemination).
The project team also received invaluable research and drafting support from the following persons who were at the time legal associates in the ICRC Legal Division: Jemma Arman, Sabeena Bali-Dingra, Masrur Bin Ansari, Isabelle Gallino, Anna Greipl, Sabrina Henry, Heleen Hiemstra, Sophie Huvé, Öykü Irmakkesen, Yvette Issar, Elem Khairullin, Jessica Laird, Ignacio Lepro, Anna Leshchinskaya, Ximena Londoño, Linda Louis, Claudia Maritano, Sarah Menard, Eleanor Mitchell, Vanessa Murphy, Kristina Nechayeva, Antoana Nedyalkova, Ellen Nohle, Darren Ou Yong, Maria Giovanna Pietropaolo, Vanessa Pooudomsak, Elvina Pothelet, Juliette Praz, Guillem Adria Puri Plana, Andrea Raab, Michael Riepl, Tilman Rodenhäuser, José Serralvo, Caroline Siewert, Lizaveta Tarasevich, Veronika Vajdová, Odile Vandenbossche, Paulien Vandendriessche, Oliver Waters and Vishakha Wijenayake. A special mention is due to Jessica Laird, Sarah Menard, Antoana Nedyalkova and Lizaveta Tarasevich, who, during the finalization of the manuscript, carried out the arduous tasks of responding to requests for reference checks and of completing the tables of sources.
Particular thanks go to Sonia Crenn and Ismaël Raboud of the ICRC Library, who provided unstinting support. Likewise, Fabrizio Bensi, Jean-Michel Diez, Nicole Ducraux, Isabelle Nikles, Daniel Palmieri and Maya Rombaldi Revaz of the ICRC Archives gave enormous help with the archival research. Special thanks are also due to Heike Niebergall-Lackner and Lindsey Cameron for setting up and coordinating the archival research, which provided an important foundation for the updated Commentary.
A final special mention is due to Kvitoslava Krotiuk, who, with the assistance of Renée Bretton, coordinated the public launch of the Commentary on 16 June 2020. In this, she received support from ICRC staff members Daphnée Bertille Defretin, Madalena De Vasconcelos Costa Vieira da Rosa, Anita Dullar, Juliane Garcia Ravel, Nicole Martins-Maag, Philippe Pakter, Sarah Roxas-Studer, Elizabeth Rushing, Daniela Valencia, Tessel van der Putte and Christopher James Weller Jones.
The ICRC would also like to thank the numerous other people who provided support and advice, in particular the legal advisers of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
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Persons outside the ICRC
The ICRC is also grateful for the guidance received from the following persons, within their sphere of expertise:
Ricardo Guilherme Filho, Director, Legal Affairs Directorate, Universal Postal Union, Bern
Arnaud Guillot, Head, Legal Affairs Unit, International Telecommunication Union
Benn McGrady, Technical Officer (Legal), Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, World Health Organization, Geneva
Prof. Anna Petrig, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Basel (status of merchant marine)
Prof. Marta Pertegas Sender, Professor, Faculty of Law, Maastricht University (private international law)
Prof. Gian Paolo Romano, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Geneva (private international law)
Prof. Cédric Tille, Professor, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva (financial resources of prisoners of war).
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Christina Grisewood and Tina Weadick undertook the monumental task of editing the Commentary. Christina Grisewood was responsible for the final preparation of the manuscript for online and print publication.
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Online and print versions
The online version was prepared with the support of Sandra Manzi and Florent Isselin.
The print production was organized by Finola O’Sullivan and Catherine Smith at Cambridge University Press.
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AU African Union
DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo
ECCC Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia
EU European Union
ICC International Criminal Court
ICJ International Court of Justice
ICJ Reports International Court of Justice, Reports of Judgments, Advisory Opinions and Orders
ICRC International Committee of the Red Cross
ICTR International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda
ICTY International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia
IHL International humanitarian law
IHFFC International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission
ILA International Law Association
ILC International Law Commission
ILO International Labour Organization
IMT International Military Tribunal
LOAC Law of armed conflict
NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organisation
OAS Organization of American States
OAU Organization of African Unity (now African Union)
PCIJ Permanent Court of International Justice
POW Prisoner of war
PW Prisoner of war
SOFA Status of Forces Agreement
UN United Nations
UNESCO United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund
UDFR Union des forces démocratiques pour le rassemblement
USSR Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
UK United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
US United States of America
WHO World Health Organization
See the Commentary of 2020
See the Commentary of 2020
See the Commentary of 2020
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