Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
  • Print page
Commentary of 1960 
[p.206] ARTICLE 29. -- HYGIENE

This Article is based on Article 13 of the 1929 Convention.
The Detaining Power has every interest in taking all necessary sanitary measures in prisoner-of-war camps in order to prevent epidemics, which are as dangerous for the civilian population as for the prisoners.


The cleanliness and healthfulness of the camps depend, first and foremost, on their location and installation. In considering Articles 22 and 25 , we have already examined the question of climate and special conditions relating to quarters, and we shall not revert to these except to stress that sanitary measures consist, in the first place, of the respect of these general conditions.
Among the special measures which the Detaining power must take in regard to prisoners of war, we would mention first very strict examination upon entry into the camp, thorough disinfection and inoculation with all necessary vaccines. These vaccines will, of course, [p.207] vary according to the climate and latitude (1) and will be re-administered as frequently as necessary; even if they are not in current use in the armed forces to which the prisoners belong, that is no reason why they should not be administered. Prisoners of war must be vaccinated as their health requires, taking into account their constitution and the risks to which they are exposed, with no restrictive considerations other than those accruing from Article 13 (which prohibits medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest). In this connection, one may also refer to Article 30, paragraph 3 , which states that prisoners of war should have the
attention, preferably, of medical personnel of the Power on which they depend and, if possible, of their nationality. prisoners suffering from contagious diseases must be placed in quarantine.
Careful attention must also be paid to quarters, and all necessary measures taken to keep them free of vermin. Lastly, prisoners of war must be given the necessary time and materials to keep their quarters clean, and the authorities of the Detaining Power must make regular inspections.


The question of sanitary conveniences is of the utmost importance for the maintenance of cleanliness and hygiene in camps. These conveniences should be so constructed as to preserve decency and cleanliness and must be sufficiently numerous. If additional conveniences become necessary, the Detaining Power must install them immediately. They must be inspected periodically by the health authorities.
During the Second World War, prisoners of war sometimes had no access to the conveniences during the night (2). The new Convention makes an express stipulation in this respect.
Another new provision which did not appear in the 1929 text is that concerning women prisoners of war; the most elementary rules of decency require that separate conveniences should be provided for them.
[p.208] Prisoners of war may, of course, be required to work on the construction of conveniences, as part of the work of installing the camp (Article 50 ); they must be paid for it, however, as it is in fact done on behalf of the Detaining Power and the latter is responsible in accordance with the general obligation under Article 15 to provide free of charge for the maintenance of prisoners of war.


In the first place, this paragraph provides that the camps must be furnished with baths and showers (3). Taking into account the difficulties which the Detaining Power may have in providing hot baths and showers for a large number of prisoners, one bath or shower per week for each prisoner may be considered reasonable. If time or climate permit, the Detaining Power may also enable prisoners to wash completely with cold water. Baths and showers may be made compulsory for prisoners of war, provided no risk to their health is involved.
This interpretation is not based on the present provision, but on paragraph 1 of this Article, which requires the Detaining Power to take all necessary sanitary measures. If baths and showers are considered necessary to ensure healthfulness in the camps and to prevent epidemics, they must be compulsory.
Apart from baths and showers, prisoners of war must also be provided with sufficient water and soap for their personal toilet and for washing their personal laundry. Special installations will be needed in the camp so that each prisoner of war can wash in the time allowed each day, first thing in the morning, and in the evening after work.
The time allowed must also be sufficient for the washing of personal laundry. In camps where other ranks are interned, this task is usually performed by the prisoners themselves; in camps for officers, it is usually done outside the camp against payment.

* (1) [(1) p.207] In Germany, during the Second World War,
prisoners of war were vaccinated regularly against typhus,
typhoid, tetanus and diphtheria. (See BRETONNI RE, op.
cit., p. 113. See also ' Report of the International
Committee of the Red Cross on its activities during the
Second World War ', Vol. I, pp. 263-264;

(2) [(2) p.207] See ' Report of the International Committee of
the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World
War, ' Vol. I, p. 263;

(3) [(1) p.208] See ' Report on the Work of the conference of
Government Experts, ' p. 144-145;