Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 2020 
Article 54 : Working pay. Occupational accidents and diseases
Text of the provision*
(1) The working pay due to prisoners of war shall be fixed in accordance with the provisions of Article 62 of the present Convention.
(2) Prisoners of war who sustain accidents in connection with work, or who contract a disease in the course, or in consequence of their work, shall receive all the care their condition may require. The Detaining Power shall furthermore deliver to such prisoners of war a medical certificate enabling them to submit their claims to the Power on which they depend, and shall send a duplicate to the Central Prisoners of War Agency provided for in Article 123.
* Paragraph numbers have been added for ease of reference.
Reservations or declarations
None
Contents

A. Introduction
2771  Article 54 aims to clarify the responsibilities of the Detaining Power and the Power on which the prisoners of war depend when prisoners sustain accidents in connection with work or when they contract a disease in the course or in consequence of their work. In addition, paragraph 1 recalls that prisoners of war need to be paid for their work in accordance with the provisions of Article 62.
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B. Historical background
2772  The 1899 and 1907 Hague Regulations were silent on the issue of compensation for injuries or disabilities sustained by prisoners of war as a result of work-related accidents or diseases.[1] The 1929 Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War addressed this issue in Article 27, paragraph 4, by requiring the Detaining Power to grant prisoners the benefit of national provisions applicable to its own civilians working in the same category of job.[2] The interpretation of this provision gave rise to some difficulties. In the ICRC’s view, the Detaining Power was responsible for paying disability allowances to prisoners both during their internment and after their release. For others, the obligation ceased on the date of the prisoners’ release, after which each State was responsible for paying the allowances to its own nationals.[3] Furthermore, Article 27 did not clearly cover the case of diseases contracted at or as a result of work. In practice, no payments appear to have been made after the Second World War by a Detaining Power to prisoners after their repatriation.[4]
2773  Participants at the Conference of Government Experts in 1947 and the Diplomatic Conference in 1949 negotiated a more viable regime contained in Article 54, which lays down in more detail the responsibilities of the Detaining Power and the Power on which the prisoners depend in case of occupational accidents or diseases suffered by prisoners of war while working during captivity.[5]
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C. Paragraph 1: Working pay
2774  Article 54(1) is merely a reference to Article 62, which regulates the question of working pay for prisoners of war. According to the latter article, prisoners of war are entitled to be paid for work carried out for the Detaining Power, for other public institutions or for private employers. For this work, the Detaining Power must fix a ‘fair’ rate of pay, which may not be less than the minimum amount determined in the second sentence of Article 62(1).[6]
2775  Neither Article 62 nor the present article clarify whether the Detaining Power should continue to pay prisoners of war who are unable to work following a work-related accident or disease. It can be argued, however, that Article 51(2) covers this situation by requiring that the domestic legislation concerning the protection of labour be applied to prisoners of war. For instance, if that legislation provides for benefits such as working pay to be granted to workers in case of occupational accidents or diseases, these benefits should be extended to prisoners of war during their captivity.[7]
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D. Paragraph 2: Compensation for occupational accidents or diseases
1. Medical care
2776  Prisoners of war who sustain accidents in connection with work, or who contract a disease in the course or in consequence of their work, ‘shall receive all the care their condition may require’. Such care would include medical and hospital care, as well as general maintenance while the prisoner is unable to work in captivity.
2777  This provision needs to be read in conjunction with Articles 15 and 30. Article 15 obliges the Detaining Power to provide free of charge for the medical attention required by the state of health of prisoners of war. Article 30 elaborates on the medical care and attention to be given, requiring that each camp have an infirmary to attend to the medical needs of prisoners of war, and that prisoners who need medical care not normally available in the camp, such as specialized treatment, have access to it outside the camp. This may be the case for prisoners of war whose condition requires specialized medical treatment. It also deals with the care and rehabilitation needs of prisoners of war with disabilities.[8]
2778  In respect of labour, particularly that carried out in labour detachments, these general obligations imply that the Detaining Power must take some precautionary measures. The infirmary in the main camp may not be easily accessible, so ideally a doctor or first-aid worker would be attached to each labour detachment and supplied with essential medicines.[9]
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2. Compensation
2779  The Detaining Power is required to issue prisoners of war who have suffered a work-related accident or disease with ‘a medical certificate enabling them to submit their claims to the Power on which they depend’. The obligation to grant compensation to prisoners who have sustained an accident or contracted a disease in connection with work falls on the Power on which the prisoners depend. The Detaining Power is only obliged to facilitate the submission of prisoners’ claims by providing them with a medical certificate.[10] This certificate will constitute justification for the claim.
2780  Article 54(2) needs to be read in conjunction with Article 68 on claims for compensation. Article 68(1) complements Article 54 by providing more details on the contents of the certificate that the Detaining Power must provide, i.e. the nature of the injury, illness or disability, the circumstances in which it arose and the particulars of medical or hospital treatment given for it.[11] This information should facilitate not only the handling of the compensation claim, but also the continuation, if needed, of the prisoner’s medical care after repatriation.
2781  Claims for compensation can be submitted after repatriation or can be referred during captivity, through the Protecting Power, to the Power on which the prisoner depends.[12] Article 54 does not address the situation in which the accident or disease results in the death of a prisoner. In such cases, the medical certificate should be forwarded to the family of the prisoner so that they can submit a claim for compensation.[13]
2782  In the ICRC’s experience of armed conflicts since the Second World War, the Detaining Power has generally fulfilled its obligation to care for a wounded or sick prisoner of war following an occupational accident or illness. However, there is no record of medical certificates being issued by the Detaining Power nor of compensation being paid to prisoners by the Power on which they depend.
2783  Article 54(2) also requires that a duplicate of the certificate be forwarded to the Central Prisoners of War Agency.[14] The purpose of inserting this obligation in this article and in Article 30 is to prevent prisoners’ medical certificates being confiscated at the time of their repatriation, as often happened during the Second World War; a duplicate thus provides an additional means for prisoners of war to claim their rights after repatriation.[15]
2784  Prisoners of war falling within the ambit of Article 54 benefit from Part IV, Section I of this Convention, which deals with direct repatriation and accommodation in neutral countries during hostilities, mainly of seriously wounded or sick prisoners of war. Article 114 explicitly extends the benefit of these provisions to prisoners of war who suffer a work-related injury or illness during captivity.[16]
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Select bibliography
Anon., ‘The Conditions of Employment of Prisoners of War: The Geneva Convention of 1929 and its Application’, International Labour Review, Vol. 47, No. 2, February 1943, pp. 169–195.
Levie, Howard S., ‘The Employment of Prisoners of War’, American Journal of International Law, Vol. 57, No. 2, April 1963, pp. 318–353.
Maia, Catherine, Kolb, Robert and Scalia, Damien, La Protection des Prisonniers de Guerre en Droit International Humanitaire, Bruylant, Brussels, 2015.
Sanna, Sylvia, ‘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 - Some subsequent bilateral agreements concerning the employment of prisoners of war did provide for medical certificates to be issued attesting to work-related accidents, but these provisions remained limited and did not establish a compensation claims system; see e.g. Agreement between Austria-Hungary and Italy concerning Prisoners of War and Civilians (1918), Article 104.
2 - See ‘The Conditions of Employment of Prisoners of War: The Geneva Convention of 1929 and its Application’, pp. 181–182. For a longer historical overview of this issue, see Curt H. Rosenberg, ‘International Law Concerning Accidents to War Prisoners Employed in Private Enterprises’, American Journal of International Law, Vol. 36, No. 2, April 1942, pp. 294–298.
3 - See J.P., ‘Le Comité international de la Croix-Rouge et la guerre: Prisonniers de guerre victimes d’accidents du travail’, Revue internationale de la Croix-Rouge, Vol. 25, No. 299, November 1943, pp. 849–853; Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, p. 271; 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. 339–340; Anon., ‘The Conditions of Employment of Prisoners of War: The Geneva Convention of 1929 and its Application’, pp. 181–182; and Levie, pp. 348–349.
4 - Levie, p. 349.
5 - For the discussions at the 1947 Conference of Government Experts, see, in particular, Minutes of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, Committee II, Vol. III, 9th meeting, pp. 232–237 and 260–261.
6 - For further details, see the commentary on Article 62, section C.1.
7 - On this point, see Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, pp. 284–287, and Levie, pp. 350–351. The delegation of France at the 1949 Diplomatic Conference made a proposal, ultimately rejected, to extend the payment of a daily rate of compensation to prisoners, calculated in accordance with the domestic legislation of the Detaining Power; see Minutes of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Committee II, Vol. I, 10th meeting, p. 43, and Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 275. For current State practice on this issue, see e.g. United Kingdom, Manual of the Law of Armed Conflict, 2004, p. 177, para. 8.89.
8 - See the commentary on Article 30, sections B and C.
9 - See Pictet (ed.), Commentary on the Third Geneva Convention, ICRC, 1960, pp. 284–285. See also Sanna, p. 1003.
10 - It is noteworthy that Article 54 differs from Articles 40 and 95 of the Fourth Convention, which oblige the Detaining Power to provide compensation to civilian internees who have suffered occupational accidents or diseases. Negotiators at the 1949 Diplomatic Conference decided not to extend this obligation in the case of prisoners of war; see Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949, Vol. II-A, p. 402.
11 - For more details, see the commentary on Article 68, section C.2. See also Article 30(4), which also provides details on medical certificates. The certificate should indicate the nature of the illness or injury and the duration and kind of treatment received. See the commentary on Article 30, section E.
12 - For more details, see the commentary on Article 68, section C.1.
13 - See the commentary on Article 68, para. 3086. On this point, see also Maia/Kolb/Scalia, p. 346.
14 - On the functioning of the Agency, see the commentary on Article 123.
15 - See Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947, p. 147, and the commentary on Article 30, para. 2276.
16 - For more details, see the commentary on Article 114.