Legal Background

Here we have gathered some of the articles of the Geneva Convention III regarding the treatment of prisoners of war. Please note that these articles are edited and shortened to focus on information that is needed to complete the "Prisoner of War" game. At the end, we have also added two articles from Convention I that might be needed in the game. Links to the complete version of the Geneva Convention III and other treaties can be found at the end of this document.

Geneva Convention (III) Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War

Article 4

The following shall be treated as prisoners of war:

•  Members of the opposing armed forces.

•  Civilians on unoccupied territory that haven't had the time to form regular fighting units but have taken to arms to defend themselves against an approaching enemy.

•  Persons that travel with the armed forces without being actual members. For example, war correspondents, supply contractors, or other labor or service personnel.

•  Crews of merchant ships or aircraft.

•  Members of militia/resistance groups operating under a participant to the conflict as long as such a group has a clear chain of command, carries a distinctive sign, carries its arms openly, and follows the rules of war.

Article 5

If there is any uncertainty about the status of a captured person, he or she shall be treated according to the Geneva Convention until his or her status can be established by a competent court.

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated and shall not be subjected to abuse, torture, humiliation, intimidation, physical mutilation, or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind. The life of POWs may not be endangered and POWs must at all times be protected against insults and public curiosity (press, media, etc.).

Article 17

All POWs are to be given an identity card. If asked, POWs must give only surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal, or serial number. No physical or mental torture may be inflicted on POWs to make them give up information of any kind whatever.

Article 18

Every POW is allowed to keep his or her belongings and sums of money. Anything removed must be registered so that it can be returned to the prisoner upon release.

Article 23

Prisoners may not be used as human shields or detained in areas where there is risk of being exposed to fire from the combat zone. POW camps must be clearly indicated.

Article 25

POWs shall be quartered under satisfactory conditions. If there are both women and men in the same camp, separate dormitories shall be provided for them.

Article 26

Prisoners must be supplied with adequate food and drink. POWs are allowed to smoke and have tobacco.

Article 27

The detaining power is responsible for supplying the prisoners with clothing, underwear, and footwear that fit the climate.

Article 28

Canteens shall be made available in every POW camp. These shall offer basic supplies at prices not surpassing the local market. All profits made shall be invested in a fund and used for the benefit of the prisoners.

Article 29

POW camps must have adequate hygiene facilities. If there are both women and men in the same camp, separate hygiene facilities shall be provided for them.

Article 30

Every camp shall have an adequate infirmary to take care of the prisoners in need of medical care.

Article 33

Medical personnel and chaplains are not given POW status but are still to be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention III.

Article 34

Prisoners shall be free to exercise their religious duties and, if needed, the detaining power shall provide room for religious services.

Article 38

The prisoners shall be encouraged to participate in recreational, educational, and intellectual activities. Space shall be created for these activities in every camp.

Article 41

The Geneva Convention and its Annexes shall be posted for the prisoners to read in every camp. The text must be available in the prisoners' own language.

Articles 49-50

Prisoners of war may be used to perform labor as long as it is not dangerous or of military character or purpose.

Article 52

Only prisoners volunteering may be used for work of a dangerous or unhealthy nature as, for example, the removal of mines.

Article 53

Prisoners that are put to work are entitled to have at least one day per week free from work.

Article 62

If POWs are put to work, they shall be paid a fair wage by the detaining power.

Article 70.

Within a week of capture, all prisoners shall be enabled to write an information card to their family and the Central Prisoners of War Agency to inform them of their capture, address, and state of health.

Article 71

Prisoners of war are allowed to send and receive letters.

Article 72

POWs are allowed to receive individual or collective shipments containing food, clothing, medical supplies, or articles allowing them to pursue intellectual, cultural, or physical activities.

Article 76

Mail and parcels may be censored by the despatching and receiving state. Censoring must be done as quickly as possible and only once by each side.

Article 87

Collective punishment for individual acts is strictly forbidden. Disciplinary measures shall never be inhumane, brutal, or dangerous to the life of the POW.

Article 90

A prisoner may be sentenced to confinement for a maximum of thirty days.

Article 92

A prisoner captured during an escape attempt shall receive disciplinary punishment at the most, even if it is a repeated offense.

Article 97

Prisoners may not be transferred to other penitentiary establishments such as prisons to serve their punishment there.

Article 110

Prisoners that are incurably sick or wounded, or not likely to recover within one year, shall be released and sent home immediately.

Article 120

If a POW dies, the Prisoner of War Information Bureau must be informed as soon as possible. The identity of the deceased and the cause of death must be established before burial. The grave must be properly marked and registered.

Article 122

Each country that holds POWs must establish an information bureau where the identity, whereabouts, and health status of the prisoners shall be registered.

Article 126

Representatives from the ICRC are allowed to visit all places where POWs are held. They are allowed to interview POWs without witnesses and without restrictions regarding the length of the interview.

Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field

Article 24 + Article 26

The staff of National Red Cross Societies and that of other voluntary aid societies duly recognized and authorized by their governments shall be respected and protected in all circumstances.


Links to the Geneva Conventions

Links below to the Geneva Conventions at the web site of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The first three Geneva Conventions were revised at the diplomatic conference in Geneva in 1949, which is why today they are also referred to as the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Geneva Convention I (from 1864) »
Wounded and sick of the armed forces have the right to protection and care. Medical personnel must maintain neutrality and impartiality in their work.

Geneva Convention II (from 1899) »
The treaty includes protecting and caring for the wounded and sick in battles at sea.

Geneva Convention III (from 1929) »
All prisoners of war are to be treated humanely and have the right to get in touch with their relatives.

Geneva Convention IV (from 1949) »
The treaty protects civilians (citizens not belonging to an army) and civilian property.

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