Еволюція статусу військовополонених у міжнародному праві в роки Першої світової війни

Мінаєва Т.В. Еволюція статусу військовополонених у міжнародному праві в роки Першої світової війни / Т.В. Мінаєва // Історична панорама: Збірник наукових статей ЧНУ. Спеціальність «Історія». – Чернівці: Чернівецький нац. ун-т, 2015. – Вип. 21. – С. 48-71.

У статті, присвяченій питанню еволюції статусу військовополонених в роки Першої світової війни, проаналізовано міжнародні нормативно-правові акти, які розроблялися воюючими країнами з метою покращення становища полонених. Автор доходить висновку, що вперше переговорний процес тривав безперервно впродовж війни, результатом чого стали підписання Стокгольмських протоколів впродовж 1915-1917 рр. та Копенгагенського протоколу 1917 р.

Ключові слова: Перша світова війна, військовополонені, правовий статус військовополонених, Міжнародне товариство Червоного Хреста, Стокгольмська конференція.


Minaieva T.V. The evolution of ‘Prisoner of War’ status in the international law in the First World War

The article canvases the problem of evolution of the legally recognized status of ‘Prisoner of War’ (POW) in the international law in the First World War. Despite their importance, however, only recently have First World War prisoners of war become the subject of historical study. The author provides the in-depth and comparative analysis of the international regulations, developed by the belligerent states to ease the captives’ plight. Therefore, the topicality of the present research proved the necessity for international law compliance with the ‘prisoners of war’ rights, was caused by the increased number of captives: as estimated, in the early history of warfare the number of prisoners enumerated hundreds of thousands, and throughout the WWI the number of prisoners rose to several millions. It should be noted, that since WWI outbreak, it became clear, that the maintenance of prisoners couldn’t be implemented and kept within the law due to the vagueness and generalized provisions of the pre-war arrangements. Concurrently, the Western front was characterized by a constant expansion of the existing pre-war law – adopted by Germany on the one hand, and France and Britain, on the other hand; as well as by concluding intergovernmental agreements on the exchange of wounded and incapacitated prisoners; of some categories of prisoners’ internment from the combat zone; medical staff return; abolition of punishment for prisoners, etc. On the contrary, the Eastern Front couldn’t experience such practice, since the Russian Empire found it extremely difficult to response and make any concessions to Germany and Austria-Hungary. Moreover, the Eastern Front, with its rapidly moving offensives and retreats, facilitated prisoner-taking on a vast scale. In a broader perspective, it was found out, that whilst, the slow and tedious process of official interstate cooperation was establishing, the various charitable organizations immediately sprang up to institute its work on improving the situation of prisoners of war. The First World War saw an ongoing struggle by those activists who sought to humanize captivity, to uphold existing international law and to deliver material aid to prisoners who needed it. A wide range of groups were involved in this process. Of particular importance were the International Committee of the Red Cross’ activities; significantly, owing to its staff , the study of the real situation in the camps was based on accurate prisoners’ testimony; prisoners’ most urgent needs were figured out and the ways to improve their situation were sought. As a direct result of war, the Hague agreement in 1907 was not being faithfully observed. Their rules were extremely vague, there were no mechanisms for monitoring their implementing; consequently, soon after the outburst of WWI war it was obvious that new agreements should be set forth. It was concluded that during WWI there was a series of official and secrete meetings; they examined the significance of new, violent trends of captivity treatment, arguing that the Great War marked a key turningpoint in the twentieth-century evolution of the prison camp. The evaluation of several provisions of the Stockholm Conference 1915-1917 and Copenhagen in 1917 highlighted changed, specified and supplemented laws related to the POW maintaining. In addition to healthy captives’ regulation, the problem of limited exchanges of seriously wounded or otherwise incapacitated prisoners were negotiated between belligerents, as well as the internment of a certain number of such prisoners in neutral states was under study. It is worth mentioning, prisoner treatment, however, also depended on the material resources of the captor state and the extent to which state control at the local level was challenged by the exigencies of the war effort. It can be summarized, regardless the existing problems with prisoners’ maintenance; the negotiations and adopted agreements testified to belligerent countries’ willingness to partially improve the captives’ conditions and providing them with better living conditions. Judging from the documents, it has become clear that negotiating process was conducted in the long run throughout WWI, at the same time consultative meetings were constantly held, different agreements were concluded and persistently amended according to the wartime requirements. Importantly, further research may well open up new perspectives on the POW legal status investigation.

Keywords: First World War, prisoners of war (POW), legal status of prisoners of war, the International Red Cross, the Stockholm Conference.