The Prisoners of War Information Bureau in London

The Prisoners of War Information Bureau in London

Bibliographic Details

London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1915

Book Review

In preparing this study of the Prisoners of War Information Bureau, established by the British Government in pursuance of the provisions of the Geneva Convention of 1906 and the Hague Convention of 1907 concerning the laws and customs of war on land, the author has performed a useful service to those who are interested more particularly in the humanitarian side of war. Sections III to XI, inclusive, deal with the constitution and actual work of the bureau in performing the various duties with reference to prisoners of war now imposed upon belligerents by international convention.

Introduction to The Prisoners of War Information Bureau in London

Appended to these sections are reproductions of the blank cards and forms used by the bureau in keeping its records and making its returns. Section I states the provisions of the Hague and Geneva Conventions, and Section II contains a summary of the forrner barbarous practices and of the growth of the present humanitarian practice with reference to the treatment of prisoners of war. It is interesting to note that bureaux of information concerning prisoners of war were voluntarily established by belligerents in most of the wars since the Geneva Convention of 1864, the principal exceptions being the Boer War and the Spanish-American War.

Context of The Prisoners of War Information Bureau in London

The introduction by Professor Oppenheim, of the University of Cainbridge, at whose suggestion the brochure was prepared, calls attention to the enlargement in the present war of the class of persons considered prisoners of war to include enemy civilians in the territory of belligerents, which, he states, is an entirely novel departure. He justifies the practice of interning enemy civilianis who are reservists or are of a military age, on the ground that all able-bodied men within certain ages are now potential members of the armed forces, and a belligerent cannot be expected to allow such enemies to withdraw to join the armed forces. If the number of such aliens is so great that the belligerent's safety is endangered, he may, for military reasons, be compelled to intern them.

Thesis Statement

Professor Oppenheim holds that “if a person is interned at all, his treatment as a prisoner of war is the mildest treatment possible,” and he attaches a memorandumi from Sir Edward Grey to the American Ambassador, outlining in detail the treatment of interned civilians and prisoners of war in Great Britain. In concluding his work, Mr. Roxburgh states that “it is perhaps not too much to hope that if the humane endeavors of the British Government were better known to the world and to the people of Germany, they would out of gratitude urge their own Government to take more pains to see that inquiries from England were answered, and to send complete, regular, and accurate lists of British and Belgian prisoners of war in Germany, and of soldiers buried by the German armies.” Our readers who are interested in pursuing the subject of the treatment of interned British subjects in Germany are referred to the reports of the American officials communicated to the British Government and laid before Parliament, listed in the “Public Documents relating to International Law,” in this JOURNAL for July and October, 1915.

Book Review Details

This legal book review was published in:

The American Journal of International Law,Vol. 10, No. 1 (Jan., 1916), pp. 198-199

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