Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
  • Print page
Commentary of 1960 


1. ' First sentence. -- Obligations of the Detaining Power '

As already stated in Article 12, paragraph 1 , of the 1929 Convention, the Detaining Power must provide prisoners of war with clothing, underwear and footwear; the 1949 text makes express provision for [p.201] this requirement to be adapted to climate. It must be pointed out that the Detaining Power's obligation is in no way lessened by any additional clothing which prisoners may receive from other sources. During the Second World War the Powers of Origin of prisoners of war sent considerable quantities of uniforms to them through the good offices of the International Committee of the Red Cross, but in doing so the Powers concerned had no intention of releasing the Detaining Power from its obligations (1).
Prisoners may in no case be obliged to wear the uniform of the Detaining Power if they consider that their honour does not so permit (Article 14, paragraph 1 ). The Detaining Power must therefore, as a minimum, alter those uniforms, in particular by removing all badges of nationality. Detaining Powers have never been willing to allow prisoners of war to wear civilian clothing, in order not to make escape easier.

2. ' Second sentence. -- Use of enemy uniforms captured by
the Detaining Power '

The authors of the Convention nevertheless considered that material difficulties in time of war are such that the Detaining Power could not be required to make clothing specially for prisoners. The use of enemy uniforms captured by the Detaining Power is therefore permitted, but since this source is rather problematic, the clause does not solve the problem. The best solution is in fact that the Power of Origin or the Protecting Power should send the necessary uniforms, and relief organizations can assist in forwarding such consignments.


The obligation in the present paragraph for the Detaining power to replace articles of clothing does not depend on any stocks of enemy uniforms which it may hold. But if such stocks exist, they should obviously be used solely for replacement of clothing in accordance with the first paragraph.
As regards the supply of appropriate working outfits, there is no reference to the clothing of civilian or military workers of the Detaining Power employed on similar work for purposes of comparison. This is [p.202] mentioned, however, in Article 51, paragraph 1 , which provides that prisoners of war must be granted suitable working conditions, and specifically as regard clothing, and that such conditions must not be inferior to those enjoyed by "nationals of the Detaining Power employed in similar work". That Article also takes account of "climatic conditions". The present paragraph requires the provision of appropriate clothing wherever the nature of the work demands. The fact that nationals of the Detaining Power may be called upon to work in bad conditions does not therefore mean that prisoners of war may be required to work in similar conditions. The safety and health of prisoners of war are the only determining factors. In this connection, one should refer to Article 52, paragraph 1 , which states that prisoners of war should not be
employed on labour which is of an unhealthy or dangerous nature. As we shall see later in considering Articles 51 and 52 , the unhealthy or dangerous nature of any particular work often depends on the clothing and equipment of workers.
We may also refer here to Article 7 of the Regulations concerning collective relief (Annex III), which gives the prisoners' representative wide powers regarding the distribution and allocation of clothing received in relief shipments.

* (1) [(1) p.201] See ' Report of the International Committee of
the Red Cross on its activities during the Second World
War ', Vol. I, pp. 258-263;