Section E. Destination of returning persons
Geneva Convention III
Article 109 of the 1949 Geneva Convention III provides: “Parties to the conflict are bound to send back to their own country
… seriously wounded and seriously sick prisoners of war.”
Geneva Convention III
Article 118 of the 1949 Geneva Convention III provides: “Prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated
without delay after the cessation of active hostilities.”
Geneva Convention IV
Article 134 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV leaves the choice between return to the last place of residence and repatriation, while Article 135 provides that the internee can elect to return to his/her country on his/her own responsibility.
Geneva Convention IV
Article 45 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provides: “In no circumstances shall a protected person be transferred to a country where he or she may have reason to fear persecution for his or her political opinions or religious beliefs.”
London Programme of Action on Humanitarian Issues
Pursuant to Article 2(d) of the 1992 London Programme of Action on Humanitarian Issues, the parties to the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina agreed that when the secure release and return of civilians to their homes was not immediately feasible, the following options should be adopted:
–repatriation to areas under the control of their respective ethnic authorities;
–choosing to stay temporarily in the area of detention;
–relocation in areas away from the conflict under international supervision;
–temporary refuge in third countries.
Cotonou Agreement on Liberia
Article 10 of the 1993 Cotonou Agreement on Liberia provided that all prisoners of war and detainees be immediately released to the Red Cross authority in an area where such prisoners or detainees were detained, for onward transmission to encampment sites or the authority of the prisoner of war or detainee.
Burundi’s Regulations on International Humanitarian Law (2007) states that prisoners of war “may be transferred by the Detaining Power … to their State of origin at the end of hostilities”.
Cameroon’s Instructor’s Manual (2006) states: “At the end of hostilities, prisoners of war must be liberated and repatriated to their state of origin.”
The manual also states that with regard to prisoners of war “the obligation arises to … repatriate them (to their home) after the end of hostilities”.
Bangladesh’s International Crimes (Tribunal) Act (1973) states that the “violation of any humanitarian rules applicable in armed conflicts laid down in the Geneva Conventions of 1949” is a crime.
Denmark’s Military Criminal Code (1973), as amended in 1978, provides:
Any person who uses war instruments or procedures the application of which violates an international agreement entered into by Denmark or the general rules of international law, shall be liable to the same penalty [i.e. a fine, lenient imprisonment or up to 12 years’ imprisonment].
Denmark’s Military Criminal Code (2005) provides:
Any person who deliberately uses war means [“krigsmiddel”] or procedures the application of which violates an international agreement entered into by Denmark or international customary law, shall be liable to the same penalty [i.e. imprisonment up to life imprisonment].
Under Ireland’s Geneva Conventions Act (1962), as amended in 1998, any “minor breach” of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including violations of Articles 109 and 118 of the Geneva Convention III and Articles 45, 134 and 135 of the Geneva Convention IV, is a punishable offence.
Norway’s Military Penal Code (1902), as amended in 1981, provides:
Anyone who contravenes or is accessory to the contravention of provisions relating to the protection of persons or property laid down in … the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 … is liable to imprisonment.
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.
In 2010, during the consideration of the status of the 1977 Additional Protocols by the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly, a statement of the delegation of Malaysia was summarized by the Committee in its records as follows:
8. [The delegate of Malaysia] said that …
10. … [t]he laws of naval warfare incorporated the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law, including necessity and proportionality …
11. [In the case of the attacks by the Israel Defense Forces on the Mavi Marmara and five accompanying vessels in May 2010] … [w]here vessels were captured, the protections provided in the Second and Fourth Geneva Conventions of 1949 and [the 1977 Additional] Protocol I continued to apply to the persons on board the vessels.
According to the Report on the Practice of Nigeria, at the end of the Nigerian civil war in 1970, the inhabitants of the former Biafran enclave were released so that they could return to their respective towns.
UN Security Council
In a resolution adopted in 1980 in the context of the independence struggle in Southern Rhodesia (Zimbabwe), the UN Security Council called upon the UK Government to take all necessary steps to release any South African political prisoners, including captured freedom fighters in southern Rhodesia, and to ensure their safe passage to any country of their choice.