Geneva Convention III

Entry into Force: 21 October 1950

The undersigned Plenipotentiaries of the Governments represented at the Diplomatic Conference

held at Geneva from April 21 to August 12, 1949, for the purpose of revising the Convention

concluded at Geneva on July 27, 1929 relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, have agreed as




Article 1

The High Contracting Parties undertake to

respect and to ensure respect for the present

Convention in all circumstances.

Article 2

In addition to the provisions which shall be

implemented in peace time, the present

Convention shall apply to all cases of

declared war or of any other armed conflict

which may arise between two or more of the

High Contracting Parties, even if the state of

war is not recognized by one of them.

The Convention shall also apply to all cases

of partial or total occupation of the territory

of a High Contracting Party, even if the said

occupation meets with no armed resistance.

Although one of the Powers in conflict may

not be a party to the present Convention, the

Powers who are parties thereto shall remain

bound by it in their mutual relations. They

shall furthermore be bound by the

Convention in relation to the said Power, if

the latter accepts and applies the provisions


Article 3

In the case of armed conflict not of an

international character occurring in the

territory of one of the High Contracting

Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be

bound to apply, as a minimum, the

following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the

hostilities, including members of armed

forces who have laid down their arms and

those placed hors de combat by sickness,

wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall

in all circumstances be treated humanely,

without any adverse distinction founded on

race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or

wealth, or any other similar criteria.

To this end the following acts are and

shall remain prohibited at any time and in

any place whatsoever with respect to the

above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in

particular murder of all kinds, mutilation,

cruel treatment and torture;

(b) taking of hostages;

(c) outrages upon personal

dignity, in particular, humiliating and

degrading treatment;

(d) he passing of sentences and

the carrying out of executions without

previous judgment pronounced by a

regularly constituted court affording all the

judicial guarantees which are recognized as

indispensable by civilized peoples.

(2) The wounded and sick shall be

collected and cared for.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the

International Committee of the Red Cross,

may offer its services to the Parties to the


The Parties to the conflict should further

endeavour to bring into force, by means of

special agreements, all or part of the other

provisions of the present Convention.

The application of the preceding provisions

shall not affect the legal status of the Parties

to the conflict.

Article 4

A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the

present Convention, are persons belonging

to one of the following categories, who have

fallen into the power of the enemy:

(1) Members of the armed forces of a

Party to the conflict, as well as members of

militias or volunteer corps forming part of

such armed forces.

(2) Members of other militias and

members of other volunteer corps, including

those of organized resistance movements,

belonging to a Party to the conflict and

operating in or outside their own territory,

even if this territory is occupied, provided

that such militias or volunteer corps,

including such organized resistance

movements, fulfil the following conditions:

(a) that of being commanded by a

person responsible for his subordinates;

(b) that of having a fixed

distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;

(c) that of carrying arms openly;

(d) that of conducting their

operations in accordance with the laws and

customs of war.

(3) Members of regular armed forces

who profess allegiance to a government or

an authority not recognized by the Detaining


(4) Persons who accompany the armed

forces without actually being members

thereof, such as civilian members of

military aircraft crews, war correspondents,

supply contractors, members of labour units

or of services responsible for the welfare of

the armed forces, provided that they have

received authorization, from the armed

forces which they accompany, who shall

provide them for that purpose with an

identity card similar to the annexed model.

(5) Members of crews, including

masters, pilots and apprentices, of the

merchant marine and the crews of civil

aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do

not benefit by more favourable treatment

under any other provisions of international


(6) Inhabitants of a non-occupied

territory, who on the approach of the enemy

spontaneously take up arms to resist the

invading forces, without having had time to

form themselves into regular armed units,

provided they carry arms openly and respect

the laws and customs of war.

B. The following shall likewise be treated

as prisoners of war under the present


(1) Persons belonging, or having

belonged, to the armed forces of the

occupied country, if the occupying Power

considers it necessary by reason of such

allegiance to intern them, even though it has

originally liberated them while hostilities

were going on outside the territory it

occupies, in particular where such persons

have made an unsuccessful attempt to rejoin

the armed forces to which they belong and

which are engaged in combat, or where they

fail to comply with a summons made to

them with a view to internment.

(2) The persons belonging to one of

the categories enumerated in the present

Article, who have been received by neutral

or non-belligerent Powers on their territory

and whom these Powers are required to

intern under international law, without

prejudice to any more favourable treatment

which these Powers may choose to give and

with the exception of Articles 8, 10, 15, 30,

fifth paragraph, 58-67, 92, 126 and, where

diplomatic relations exist between the

Parties to the conflict and the neutral or nonbelligerent

Power concerned, those Articles

concerning the Protecting Power. Where

such diplomatic relations exist, the Parties

to a conflict on whom these persons depend

shall be allowed to perform towards them

the functions of a Protecting Power as

provided in the present Convention, without

prejudice to the functions which these

Parties normally exercise in conformity with

diplomatic and consular usage and treaties.

C. This Article shall in no way affect the

status of medical personnel and chaplains as

provided for in Article 33 of the present


Article 5

The present Convention shall apply to the

persons referred to in Article 4 from the

time they fall into the power of the enemy

and until their final release and repatriation.

Should any doubt arise as to whether

persons, having committed a belligerent act

and having fallen into the hands of the

enemy, belong to any of the categories

enumerated in Article 4, such persons shall

enjoy the protection of the present

Convention until such time as their status

has been determined by a competent


* * *

Article 7

Prisoners of war may in no circumstances

renounce in part or in entirety the rights

secured to them by the present Convention,

and by the special agreements referred to in

the foregoing Article, if such there be.

* * *




Article 12

Prisoners of war are in the hands of the

enemy Power, but not of the individuals or

military units who have captured them.

Irrespective of the individual responsibilities

that may exist, the Detaining Power is

responsible for the treatment given them.

Prisoners of war may only be transferred by

the Detaining Power to a Power which is a

party to the Convention and after the

Detaining Power has satisfied itself of the

willingness and ability of such transferee

Power to apply the Convention. When

prisoners of war are transferred under such

circumstances, responsibility for the

application of the Convention rests on the

Power accepting them while they are in its


Nevertheless, if that Power fails to carry out

the provisions of the Convention in any

important respect, the Power by whom the

prisoners of war were transferred shall,

upon being notified by the Protecting

Power, take effective measures to correct

the situation or shall request the return of

the prisoners of war. Such requests must be

complied with.

Article 13

Prisoners of war must at all times be

humanely treated. Any unlawful act or

omission by the Detaining Power causing

death or seriously endangering the health of

a prisoner of war in its custody is

prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious

breach of the present Convention. In

particular, no prisoner of war may be

subjected to physical mutilation or to

medical or scientific experiments of any

kind which are not justified by the medical,

dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner

concerned and carried out in his interest.

Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times

be protected, particularly against acts of

violence or intimidation and against insults

and public curiosity.

Measures of reprisal against prisoners of

war are prohibited.

Article 14

Prisoners of war are entitled in all

circumstances to respect for their persons

and their honour.

Women shall be treated with all the regard

due to their sex and shall in all cases benefit

by treatment as favourable as that granted to


Prisoners of war shall retain the full civil

capacity which they enjoyed at the time of

their capture. The Detaining Power may not

restrict the exercise, either within or without

its own territory, of the rights such capacity

confers except in so far as the captivity


Article 15

The Power detaining prisoners of war shall

be bound to provide free of charge for their

maintenance and for the medical attention

required by their state of health.

Article 16

Taking into consideration the provisions of

the present Convention relating to rank and

sex, and subject to any privileged treatment

which may be accorded to them by reason

of their state of health, age or professional

qualifications, all prisoners of war shall be

treated alike by the Detaining Power,

without any adverse distinction based on

race, nationality, religious belief or political

opinions, or any other distinction founded

on similar criteria.





Article 17

Every prisoner of war, when questioned on

the subject, is bound to give only his

surname, first names and rank, date of birth,

and army, regimental, personal or serial

number, or failing this, equivalent


If he wilfully infringes this rule, he may

render himself liable to a restriction of the

privileges accorded to his rank or status.

Each Party to a conflict is required to

furnish the persons under its jurisdiction

who are liable to become prisoners of war,

with an identity card showing the owner’s

surname, first names, rank, army,

regimental, personal or serial number or

equivalent information, and date of birth.

The identity card may, furthermore, bear the

signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the

owner, and may bear, as well, any other

information the Party to the conflict may

wish to add concerning persons belonging to

its armed forces. As far as possible the card

shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be

issued in duplicate. The identity card shall

be shown by the prisoner of war upon

demand, but may in no case be taken away

from him.

No physical or mental torture, nor any other

form of coercion, may be inflicted on

prisoners of war to secure from them

information of any kind whatever. Prisoners

of war who refuse to answer may not be

threatened, insulted, or exposed to

unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of

any kind.

Prisoners of war who, owing to their

physical or mental condition, are unable to

state their identity, shall be handed over to

the medical service. The identity of such

prisoners shall be established by all possible

means, subject to the provisions of the

preceding paragraph.

The questioning of prisoners of war shall be

carried out in a language which they


Article 18

All effects and articles of personal use,

except arms, horses, military equipment and

military documents, shall remain in the

possession of prisoners of war, likewise

their metal helmets and gas masks and like

articles issued for personal protection.

Effects and articles used for their clothing or

feeding shall likewise remain in their

possession, even if such effects and articles

belong to their regulation military


At no time should prisoners of war be

without identity documents. The Detaining

Power shall supply such documents to

prisoners of war who possess none.

Badges of rank and nationality, decorations

and articles having above all a personal or

sentimental value may not be taken from

prisoners of war.

Sums of money carried by prisoners of war

may not be taken away from them except by

order of an officer, and after the amount and

particulars of the owner have been recorded

in a special register and an itemized receipt

has been given, legibly inscribed with the

name, rank and unit of the person issuing

the said receipt. Sums in the currency of the

Detaining Power, or which are changed into

such currency at the prisoner’s request, shall

be placed to the credit of the prisoner’s

account as provided in Article 64.

The Detaining Power may withdraw articles

of value from prisoners of war only for

reasons of security; when such articles are

withdrawn, the procedure laid down for

sums of money impounded shall apply.

Such objects, likewise sums taken away in

any currency other than that of the

Detaining Power and the conversion of

which has not been asked for by the owners,

shall be kept in the custody of the Detaining

Power and shall be returned in their initial

shape to prisoners of war at the end of their


Article 19

Prisoners of war shall be evacuated, as soon

as possible after their capture, to camps

situated in an area far enough from the

combat zone for them to be out of danger.

Only those prisoners of war who, owing to

wounds or sickness, would run greater risks

by being evacuated than by remaining

where they are, may be temporarily kept

back in a danger zone.

Prisoners of war shall not be unnecessarily

exposed to danger while awaiting

evacuation from a fighting zone.

Article 20

The evacuation of prisoners of war shall

always be effected humanely and in

conditions similar to those for the forces of

the Detaining Power in their changes of


The Detaining Power shall supply prisoners

of war who are being evacuated with

sufficient food and potable water, and with

the necessary clothing and medical

attention. The Detaining Power shall take all

suitable precautions to ensure their safety

during evacuation, and shall establish as

soon as possible a list of the prisoners of

war who are evacuated.

If prisoners of war must, during evacuation,

pass through transit camps, their stay in

such camps shall be as brief as possible.






Article 21

The Detaining Power may subject prisoners

of war to internment. It may impose on

them the obligation of not leaving, beyond

certain limits, the camp where they are

interned, or if the said camp is fenced in, of

not going outside its perimeter. Subject to

the provisions of the present Convention

relative to penal and disciplinary sanctions,

prisoners of war may not be held in close

confinement except where necessary to

safeguard their health and then only during

the continuation of the circumstances which

make such confinement necessary.

Prisoners of war may be partially or wholly

released on parole or promise, in so far as is

allowed by the laws of the Power on which

they depend. Such measures shall be taken

particularly in cases where this may

contribute to the improvement of their state

of health. No prisoner of war shall be

compelled to accept liberty on parole or


Upon the outbreak of hostilities, each Party

to the conflict shall notify the adverse Party

of the laws and regulations allowing or

forbidding its own nationals to accept

liberty on parole or promise. Prisoners of

war who are paroled or who have given

their promise in conformity with the laws

and regulations so notified, are bound on

their personal honour scrupulously to fulfil,

both towards the Power on which they

depend and towards the Power which has

captured them, the engagements of their

paroles or promises. In such cases, the

Power on which they depend is bound

neither to require nor to accept from them

any service incompatible with the parole or

promise given.

Article 22

Prisoners of war may be interned only in

premises located on land and affording

every guarantee of hygiene and

healthfulness. Except in particular cases

which are justified by the interest of the

prisoners themselves, they shall not be

interned in penitentiaries.

Prisoners of war interned in unhealthy areas,

or where the climate is injurious for them,

shall be removed as soon as possible to a

more favourable climate.

The Detaining Power shall assemble

prisoners of war in camps or camp

compounds according to their nationality,

language and customs, provided that such

prisoners shall not be separated from

prisoners of war belonging to the armed

forces with which they were serving at the

time of their capture, except with their


Article 23

No prisoner of war may at any time be sent

to, or detained in areas where he may be

exposed to the fire of the combat zone, nor

may his presence be used to render certain

points or areas immune from military


Prisoners of war shall have shelters against

air bombardment and other hazards of war,

to the same extent as the local civilian

population. With the exception of those

engaged in the protection of their quarters

against the aforesaid hazards, they may

enter such shelters as soon as possible after

the giving of the alarm. Any other protective

measure taken in favour of the population

shall also apply to them.

Detaining Powers shall give the Powers

concerned, through the intermediary of the

Protecting Powers, all useful information

regarding the geographical location of

prisoner of war camps.

Whenever military considerations permit,

prisoner of war camps shall be indicated in

the day-time by the letters PW or PG,

placed so as to be clearly visible from the

air. The Powers concerned may, however,

agree upon any other system of marking.

Only prisoner of war camps shall be marked

as such.

Article 24

Transit or screening camps of a permanent

kind shall be fitted out under conditions

similar to those described in the present

Section, and the prisoners therein shall have

the same treatment as in other camps.





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. The said

conditions shall make allowance for the

habits and customs of the prisoners and

shall in no case be prejudicial to their


The foregoing provisions shall apply in

particular to the dormitories of prisoners of

war as regards both total surface and

minimum cubic space, and the general

installations, bedding and blankets.

The premises provided for the use of

prisoners of war individually or collectively,

shall be entirely protected from dampness

and adequately heated and lighted, in

particular between dusk and lights out. All

precautions must be taken against the

danger of fire.

In any camps in which women prisoners of

war, as well as men, are accommodated,

separate dormitories shall be provided for


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. Account shall

also be taken of the habitual diet of the


The Detaining Power shall supply prisoners

of war who work with such additional

rations as are necessary for the labour on

which they are employed.

Sufficient drinking water shall be supplied

to prisoners of war. The use of tobacco shall

be permitted.

Prisoners of war shall, as far as possible, be

associated with the preparation of their

meals; they may be employed for that

purpose in the kitchens. Furthermore, they

shall be given the means of preparing,

themselves, the additional food in their


Adequate premises shall be provided for


Collective disciplinary measures affecting

food are prohibited.

Article 27

Clothing, underwear and footwear shall be

supplied to prisoners of war in sufficient

quantities by the Detaining Power, which

shall make allowance for the climate of the

region where the prisoners are detained.

Uniforms of enemy armed forces captured

by the Detaining Power should, if suitable

for the climate, be made available to clothe

prisoners of war.

The regular replacement and repair of the

above articles shall be assured by the

Detaining Power. In addition, prisoners of

war who work shall receive appropriate

clothing, wherever the nature of the work


Article 28

Canteens shall be installed in all camps,

where prisoners of war may procure

foodstuffs, soap and tobacco and ordinary

articles in daily use. The tariff shall never

be in excess of local market prices.

The profits made by camp canteens shall be

used for the benefit of the prisoners; a

special fund shall be created for this

purpose. The prisoners’ representative shall

have the right to collaborate in the

management of the canteen and of this fund.

When a camp is closed down, the credit

balance of the special fund shall be handed

to an international welfare organization, to

be employed for the benefit of prisoners of

war of the same nationality as those who

have contributed to the fund. In case of a

general repatriation, such profits shall be

kept by the Detaining Power, subject to any

agreement to the contrary between the

Powers concerned.




Article 29

The Detaining Power shall be bound to take

all sanitary measures necessary to ensure the

cleanliness and healthfulness of camps and

to prevent epidemics.

Prisoners of war shall have for their use, day

and night, conveniences which conform to

the rules of hygiene and are maintained in a

constant state of cleanliness. In any camps

in which women prisoners of war are

accommodated, separate conveniences shall

be provided for them.

Also, apart from the baths and showers with

which the camps shall be furnished

prisoners of war shall be provided with

sufficient water and soap for their personal

toilet and for washing their personal

laundry; the necessary installations,

facilities and time shall be granted them for

that purpose.

Article 30

Every camp shall have an adequate

infirmary where prisoners of war may have

the attention they require, as well as

appropriate diet. Isolation wards shall, if

necessary, be set aside for cases of

contagious or mental disease.

Prisoners of war suffering from serious

disease, or whose condition necessitates

special treatment, a surgical operation or

hospital care, must be admitted to any

military or civilian medical unit where such

treatment can be given, even if their

repatriation is contemplated in the near

future. Special facilities shall be afforded for

the care to be given to the disabled, in

particular to the blind, and for their.

rehabilitation, pending repatriation.

Prisoners of war shall have the attention,

preferably, of medical personnel of the

Power on which they depend and, if

possible, of their nationality.

Prisoners of war may not be prevented from

presenting themselves to the medical

authorities for examination. The detaining

authorities shall, upon request, issue to

every prisoner who has undergone

treatment, an official certificate indicating

the nature of his illness or injury, and the

duration and kind of treatment received. A

duplicate of this certificate shall be

forwarded to the Central Prisoners of War


The costs of treatment, including those of

any apparatus necessary for the maintenance

of prisoners of war in good health,

particularly dentures and other artificial

appliances, and spectacles, shall be borne by

the Detaining Power.

Article 31

Medical inspections of prisoners of war

shall be held at least once a month. They

shall include the checking and the recording

of the weight of each prisoner of war.

Their purpose shall be, in particular, to

supervise the general state of health,

nutrition and cleanliness of prisoners and to

detect contagious diseases, especially

tuberculosis, malaria and venereal disease.

For this purpose the most efficient methods

available shall be employed, e.g. periodic

mass miniature radiography for the early

detection of tuberculosis.

Article 32

Prisoners of war who, though not attached

to the medical service of their armed forces,

are physicians, surgeons, dentists, nurses or

medical orderlies, may be required by the

Detaining Power to exercise their medical

functions in the interests of prisoners of war

dependent on the same Power. In that case

they shall continue to be prisoners of war,

but shall receive the same treatment as

corresponding medical personnel retained

by the Detaining Power. They shall be

exempted from any other work under

Article 49.

* * *




Article 34

Prisoners of war shall enjoy complete

latitude in the exercise of their religious

duties, including attendance at the service of

their faith, on condition that they comply

with the disciplinary routine prescribed by

the military authorities.

Adequate premises shall be provided where

religious services may be held.

* * *

Article 38

While respecting the individual preferences

of every prisoner, the Detaining Power shall

encourage the practice of intellectual,

educational, and recreational pursuits, sports

and games amongst prisoners, and shall take

the measures necessary to ensure the

exercise thereof by providing them with

adequate premises and necessary equipment.

Prisoners shall have opportunities for taking

physical exercise, including sports and

games, and for being out of doors.

Sufficient open spaces shall be provided for

this purpose in all camps.



Article 39

Every prisoner of war camp shall be put

under the immediate authority of a

responsible commissioned officer belonging

to the regular armed forces of the Detaining

Power. Such officer shall have in his

possession a copy of the present

Convention; he shall ensure that its

provisions are known to the camp staff and

the guard and shall be responsible, under the

direction of his government, for its


Prisoners of war, with the exception of

officers, must salute and show to all officers

of the Detaining Power the external marks

of respect provided for by the regulations

applying in their own forces.

Officer prisoners of war are bound to salute

only officers of a higher rank of the

Detaining Power; they must, however,

salute the camp commander regardless of

his rank.

Article 40

The wearing of badges of rank and

nationality, as well as of decorations, shall

be permitted.

Article 41

In every camp the text of the present

Convention and its Annexes and the

contents of any special agreement provided

for in Article 6, shall be posted, in the

prisoners’ own language, in places where all

may read them. Copies shall be supplied, on

request, to the prisoners who cannot have

access to the copy which has been posted.

Regulations, orders, notices and

publications of every kind relating to the

conduct of prisoners of war shall be issued

to them in a language which they

understand. Such regulations, orders and

publications shall be posted in the manner

described above and copies shall be handed

to the prisoners’ representative. Every order

and command addressed to prisoners of war

individually must likewise be given in a

language which they understand.

Article 42

The use of weapons against prisoners of

war, especially against those who are

escaping or attempting to escape, shall

constitute an extreme measure, which shall

always be preceded by warnings appropriate

to the circumstances.




Article 43

Upon the outbreak of hostilities, the Parties

to the conflict shall communicate to one

another the titles and ranks of all the persons

mentioned in Article 4 of the present

Convention, in order to ensure equality of

treatment between prisoners of equivalent

rank. Titles and ranks which are

subsequently created shall form the subject

of similar communications.

The Detaining Power shall recognize

promotions in rank which have been

accorded to prisoners of war and which have

been duly notified by the Power on which

these prisoners depend.

Article 44

Officers and prisoners of equivalent status

shall be treated with the regard due to their

rank and age.

In order to ensure service in officers’ camps,

other ranks of the same armed forces who,

as far as possible, speak the same language,

shall be assigned in sufficient numbers,

account being taken of the rank of officers

and prisoners of equivalent status. Such

orderlies shall not be required to perform

any other work.

Supervision of the mess by the officers

themselves shall be facilitated in every way.

Article 45

Prisoners of war other than officers and

prisoners of equivalent status shall be

treated with the regard due to their rank and


Supervision of the mess by the prisoners

themselves shall be facilitated in every way.

* * *




Article 49

The Detaining Power may utilize the labour

of prisoners of war who are physically fit,

taking into account their age, sex, rank and

physical aptitude, and with a view

particularly to maintaining them in a good

state of physical and mental health.

Non-commissioned officers who are

prisoners of war shall only be required to do

supervisory work. Those not so required

may ask for other suitable work which shall,

so far as possible, be found for them.

If officers or persons of equivalent status

ask for suitable work, it shall be found for

them, so far as possible, but they may in no

circumstances be compelled to work.

Article 50

Besides work connected with camp

administration, installation or maintenance,

prisoners of war may be compelled to do

only such work as is included in the

following classes:

(a) agriculture;

(b) industries connected with the

production or the extraction of raw

materials, and manufacturing industries,

with the exception of metallurgical,

machinery and chemical industries; public

works and building operations which have

no military character or purpose;

(c) transport and handling of stores

which are not military in character or


(d) commercial business, and arts and


(e) domestic service;

(f) public utility services having no

military character or purpose.

Should the above provisions be infringed,

prisoners of war shall be allowed to exercise

their right of complaint, in conformity with

Article 78.

Article 51

Prisoners of war must be granted suitable

working conditions, especially as regards

accommodation, food, clothing and

equipment; such conditions shall not be

inferior to those enjoyed by nationals of the

Detaining Power employed in similar work;

account shall also be taken of climatic


The Detaining Power, in utilizing the labour

of prisoners of war, shall ensure that in

areas in which such prisoners are employed,

the national legislation concerning the

protection of labour, and, more particularly,

the regulations for the safety of workers, are

duly applied.

Prisoners of war shall receive training and

be provided with the means of protection

suitable to the work they will have to do and

similar to those accorded to the nationals of

the Detaining Power. Subject to the

provisions of Article 52, prisoners may be

submitted to the normal risks run by these

civilian workers.

Conditions of labour shall in no case be

rendered more arduous by disciplinary


Article 52


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