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Repatriated Prisoners Of War

Volume 389: debated on Tuesday 11 May 1943

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asked the Secretary of State for War whether he will make a statement on the repatriation of prisoners of war now in progress with Italy, giving details of the numbers of combatant sick and wounded already repatriated by either country and the numbers of such personnel passed by commissions for repatriation, also the numbers of non-combatants on either side already repatriated or awaiting repatriation?

I will, with my hon. and gallant Friend's permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a full statement on the repatriation of prisoners referred to.

Following is the statement:

The repatriation of British and Italian sick and wounded is being carried out strictly in accordance with the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War. The first part of Article 68 reads:

"Belligerents shall be required to send back to their own country, without regard to rank or numbers, after rendering them in a fit condition for transport, prisoners of war who are seriously ill or seriously wounded."

His Majesty's Government and the Italian Government set up Mixed Medical Commissions in accordance with Article 69 of the above Convention to decide which prisoners are entitled to repatriation. When the present exchanges are completed at the end of May all prisoners of war passed by these Commissions should have been repatriated. The Italian authorities have given assurances on this point. The figures are at least 700 British and 2,370 Italians.

The International Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field lays down that protected personnel—that is, chaplains, doctors, medical orderlies and others exclusively concerned with the care of sick and wounded—shall be sent back to the belligerent to which they belong. In accordance with Article 14 of the Geneva

Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War,

"It shall be permissible for belligerents mutually to authorise each other, by means of special agreements, to retain in the camps doctors and medical orderlies for the purpose of caring for their prisoner compatriots."

It has been agreed with the Italian Government that a sufficient number of these personnel should be retained to care for the needs of the prisoners. When the present repatriation is completed at least 940 British and 4,370 Italian in these categories will have been repatriated. These figures should include all those entitled to repatriation and not needed to look after prisoners.

The success of the repatriations so far carried out has been largely due to the good offices of the Portuguese and Turkish Governments and to the great help given throughout by the. Portuguese Red Cross and the Turkish Red Crescent.