Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2020 
Article 24 : Permanent transit camps
Text of the provision
Transit or screening camps of a permanent kind shall be fitted out under conditions similar to those described in the present Section, and the prisoners therein shall have the same treatment as in other camps.
Reservations or declarations
None
Contents

A. Introduction
2057  Article 24 is the last article in the chapter containing general rules on the internment of prisoners of war. It requires that conditions of internment in permanent transit or screening camps be similar to those in prisoner-of-war camps and that the prisoners in such camps receive the same treatment as prisoners in other camps.
2058  This provision is essential in avoiding a gap in the protection of prisoners of war prior to their arrival in a prisoner-of-war camp or during transit. The Detaining Power may not circumvent the Convention by holding prisoners of war in transit or screening camps – even if these are not in its own territory – instead of in regular prisoner-of-war camps. It must ensure adequate conditions of internment and humane treatment of prisoners of war at all times.
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B. Historical background
2059  During the Second World War, some prisoners of war were held in transit camps for long periods of time. On the plea that they were temporary, these camps did not as a rule provide adequate conditions of internment. The rights of prisoners of war to receive visits from supervisory agencies and to notify their whereabouts to the Central Tracing Agency were also often denied.[1]
2060  The Conference of Government Experts, convened in 1947, recognized that there can be two types of transit camps. The first includes camps that are regulated under Article 20(4). They are set up in emergency conditions in or near the combat zone. Because of these circumstances, it is not always possible to require that such camps fulfil all the material conditions specified in the Convention. The stay in such camps must therefore be as short as possible.[2] The second type of transit camp is of a permanent nature; these are set up in advance and are situated outside the combat zone. The government experts recommended including in the Convention a provision requiring that the latter type of transit camp ‘be installed in conditions as similar as possible to those required for permanent camps’.[3]
2061  The drafts submitted to and adopted by the 17th International Conference of the Red Cross in Stockholm in 1948 therefore included an article embodying that rule, which ultimately became Article 24.[4] With no objections raised during the Diplomatic Conference in 1949, Article 24 was adopted unanimously.[5]
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C. Discussion
2062  Transit or screening camps are used by the Detaining Power as an intermediate stage when moving prisoners of war from one prisoner-of-war camp to another, to process and temporarily house prisoners of war after they have fallen into its hands and before they are transferred to a prisoner-of-war camp, or before transferring them to another Power pursuant to Article 12(2). While the camps regulated by Article 24 are of a permanent kind, the stay of prisoners of war in such camps must not be.
2063  Article 24 makes a distinction between the conditions in transit or screening camps, and the treatment enjoyed by prisoners.[6] It requires that the conditions in permanent transit or screening camps be ‘similar’ to those described in the present section of the Convention. This should not be interpreted to mean that the conditions may fall below the standards provided for by the Convention. For both prisoner-of-war camps and transit or screening camps, the Convention sets a minimum standard. The use of ‘similar’ implies that although it is not required that conditions in permanent transit or screening camps be identical to those in prisoner-of-war camps, they must not differ in any essential respect from the normal conditions set forth in section II of the Convention.
2064  The treatment of prisoners of war in permanent transit or screening facilities, on the other hand, must be ‘the same’ as the treatment provided to prisoners in other camps. The word ‘treatment’ refers to all the obligations owed to prisoners of war under the Convention.[7] This confirms that prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated.[8] The provision on equal treatment in Article 24 reinforces the general principle that the Detaining Power must treat all prisoners of war alike.[9]
2065  For example, pursuant to the requirement of equal treatment, prisoners both in prisoner-of-war camps and in transit or screening camps must be provided with premises that are adequately heated.[10] However, Articles 24 and 16 would not be violated if a prisoner-of-war camp is equipped with central heating, while a transit or screening camp has a different source of heating. These conditions are similar but not identical, and in both cases the Detaining Power has fulfilled its obligation under the Convention to adequately heat the premises.[11]
2066  Some provisions in the Convention expressly state that they apply also to prisoners of war in transit or screening camps. Article 70 provides that every prisoner of war must be allowed to write a card to their family and to the Central Prisoner of War Agency informing them of their capture, address and state of health. This provision applies ‘[i]mmediately upon capture, or not more than one week after arrival at a camp, even if it is a transit camp’. Article 126 specifies that the representatives or delegates of the Protecting Power and the ICRC may go to ‘all places where prisoners of war may be’, including ‘places of departure, passage and arrival of prisoners of war who are being transferred’.
2067  The Detaining Power is free to question prisoners of war, subject to the conditions laid down in Article 17. It may also do so in transit or screening camps, although practice has shown that this may put prisoners at risk. During the Second World War, certain categories of prisoners were placed in special ‘interrogation camps’ before being sent to a prisoner-of-war camp. To secure information, great hardship was inflicted on them. Such camps were outside the control of the Protecting Powers and the delegates of the ICRC, which in most cases had no knowledge of their existence.[12] In several international armed conflicts since 1949, the ICRC has observed a similar trend of using permanent transit camps to interrogate prisoners of war before their transfer to a prisoner-of-war camp. Material conditions in such camps were at times inferior to those of regular prisoner-of-war camps, methods of interrogation included threats and physical violence, in violation of Articles 13 and 17,[13] and the ICRC was denied access to them, in violation of Article 126. Thus, while the questioning of prisoners of war in transit or screening camps is permitted, it must not lead to them being deprived of the protections due to them under the Convention.
2068  Article 24 applies irrespective of where the camp is located. In other words, even if the Detaining Power controls a transit or screening camp in another State’s territory, the conditions of internment must be similar and the treatment of prisoners must be the same as in other camps.

1 - Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, p. 137.
2 - Ibid.
3 - Ibid.
4 - Draft Conventions submitted to the 1948 Stockholm Conference, draft article 22, p. 68; Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference, draft article 22, p. 61.
5 - Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 254.
6 - There are some discrepancies between the English and French versions of the Convention with regard to the words ‘conditions’ and ‘treatment’. ‘Treatment’ in Article 24 is a translation of the French ‘régime’, while ‘conditions’ is a translation of the French ‘conditions’. The French version of Article 56 on labour detachments refers to ‘le régime des détachements de travail’, which in the English version is translated as ‘the organization and administration of labour detachments’. The ICRC’s 1960 Commentary on Article 56 recognized that the English was more restrictive than the French, and that ‘régime’ refers to everything connected with the living conditions in labour detachments (see Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 292, and the commentary on Article 56, para. 2806). Article 57 on prisoners working for private employers provides that their treatment must be at least that which is provided for by the Convention. ‘Treatment’ in that article is the French translation of ‘traitement’. This is the same case in Article 12. Despite these discrepancies, it is clear what the drafters intended in these different provisions. All prisoners of war, wherever they may be, are entitled to the same treatment. This is in line with the principle of equal treatment explicitly recognized in Article 16. The Convention does leave the Detaining Power some discretion, however, on how this is achieved and does not require identical situations for all prisoners of war.
7 - See also the commentary on Article 12, para. 1515.
8 - Article 13.
9 - Article 16.
10 - See Article 25(3).
11 - See also the commentary on Article 56, para. 2807.
12 - Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 163.
13 - One military manual specifically prohibits ‘what are known as “interrogation camps”’; see Netherlands, Military Manual, 2005, pp. 86–87, para. 0717.