Internment is the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The Oxford English Dictionary (1989) gives the meaning as: "The action of ‘interning’; confinement within the limits of a country or place". Most modern usage is about individuals, and there is a distinction between internment, which is being confined usually for preventive or political reasons, and imprisonment, which is being closely confined as a punishment for crime.
Early civilizations such as the Assyrians used forced resettlement of populations as a means of controlling territory, but it was not until much later in the late 19th and the 20th centuries that records exist of groups of civilian non-combatants being concentrated into large prison camps.
An internment camp is a large detention center created for political opponents, enemy aliens, people with mental illness, specific ethnic or religious groups, civilians of a critical war-zone, or other groups of people, usually during a war. The term is used for facilities where inmates are selected according to some specific criteria, rather than individuals who are incarcerated after due process of law fairly applied by a judiciary.
As a result of the mistreatment of civilians interned during recent conflicts, the Fourth Geneva Convention was established in 1949 to provide for the protection of civilians during times of war "in the hands" of an enemy and under any occupation by a foreign power. It was ratified by 194 nations. Prisoner-of-war camps are internment camps intended specifically for holding members of an enemy's armed forces as defined in the Third Geneva Convention, and the treatment of whom is specified in that Convention.