During wars food is often in short supply, for both civilians and military members. What does the Geneva Convention suggest countries should do if there aren't enough food supplies for Prisoners of War? Should they be released? And what should the country do about future prisoners of war - simply refuse them the right to surrender?

The question is inspired by Ukraine's struggle to secure enough food for its cities during the current conflict.

1 Answer 1


Feed them as well as the own troops. That section starts with

Article 25
Prisoners of war shall be quartered under conditions as favourable as those for the forces of the Detaining Power who are billeted in the same area. [...]

Of course there is also

Article 26
The basic daily food rations shall be sufficient in quantity, quality and variety to keep prisoners of war in good health and to prevent loss of weight or the development of nutritional deficiencies. [...]

So in a besieged city with POW, rations must be shared fairly. Note that it is a human rights violation not to feed civilians, too.

  • 14
    @JörgWMittag, for those who start a war of aggression, what is one more violation?
    – o.m.
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 6:33
  • 4
    "So in a besieged city with POW, rations must be shared fairly. Note that it is a human rights violation not to feed civilians, too." - this means that such a besieged city has the legal obligation to surrender once supplies run low, otherwise it is committing human rights violations?
    – vsz
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 7:43
  • 9
    @vsz in practice I suspect that it means that the forces laying siege have a legal obligation to permit the distribution of humanitarian aid to the besieged population. How that would work in the absence of a party providing humanitarian aid, I have no idea. If this is correct, it certainly undermines the concept of "siege" in a fairly fundamental way.
    – phoog
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 8:30
  • 19
    @vsz It's arguable that laying siege to a (predominantly) civilian objective is a potential war crime in the first place, because you're going to cause civilians to suffer and starve. Claiming that it's the besieged city's authorities' fault for not surrendering like they should have before it got there is the kind of disingenuous rhetoric that invaders love to use to justify their war criming. Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 12:03
  • 11
    All these comments are a good reflection of the fundamental issue of the Geneva Convention: it's trying to make something that is inhumane by design (war) more "humane".
    – rob74
    Commented Mar 7, 2022 at 17:15

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