Practice Relating to Rule 128. Release and Return of Persons Deprived of Their Liberty
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) states: “All prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities. This requires neither a formal armistice agreement nor the conclusion of a peace treaty.”
The manual further stresses:
Seriously wounded and sick prisoners of war who are fit to travel and whose mental or physical fitness has been incurably or permanently diminished or whose recovery may not be expected within one year shall already be repatriated during the armed conflict.
The manual also states: “Grave breaches of international humanitarian law are in particular: … unjustifiable delay in the repatriation of prisoners of war and civilians”.
Germany’s Soldiers’ Manual (2006) states: “After the cessation of combat operations all prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay.”
Germany’s Law Introducing the International Crimes Code (2002) punishes anyone, who, in connection with an international or non-international armed conflict, “unjustifiably delays the return home of a protected person”.
In 1989, in a reply to a question in Parliament concerning the repatriation of Ethiopian prisoners of war, the German Minister of Foreign Affairs stated:
The Federal Government will also in future urge the Ethiopian government to agree to a return of prisoners on humanitarian grounds. However, neither the Third Geneva Convention of 1949, to which Ethiopia is a party, nor customary international humanitarian law places any obligation on Ethiopia to repatriate or take back prisoners of war during a continuing armed conflict.
In 1995, all political parties in the German Parliament requested the release of injured and handicapped prisoners, as well as women, in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Germany’s Military Manual (1992) states: “No prisoner of war may be repatriated against his will during the hostilities.”
In 1992, the German Foreign Minister declared that Germany was willing to receive 6,000 detainees from Serb detention camps in order to make their release possible. A statement in favour of this measure was supported by all political parties in Parliament.