The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties, and three additional protocols, that establish the standards of international law for humanitarian treatment in war. The singular term Geneva Convention usually denotes the agreements of 1949, negotiated in the aftermath of the Second World War (1939–45), which updated the terms of the two 1929 treaties, and added two new conventions. The Geneva Conventions extensively defined the basic rights of wartime prisoners (civilians and military personnel), established protections for the wounded and sick, and established protections for the civilians in and around a war-zone. The treaties of 1949 were ratified, in whole or with reservations, by 196 countries. 1925).Moreover, the Geneva Convention also defines the rights and protections afforded to non-combatants, yet, because the Geneva Conventions are about people in war, the articles do not address warfare proper—the use of weapons of war—which is the subject of the Hague Conventions (First Hague Conference, 1899; Second Hague Conference 1907), and the bio-chemical warfare Geneva Protocol (Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare,
A treaty is a formal written agreement entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an international agreement, protocol, covenant, convention, pact, or exchange of letters, among other terms. Regardless of terminology, all these instruments may be considered treaties subject to the same rules under international law.
In international politics, protocol is the etiquette of diplomacy and affairs of state. It may also refer to an international agreement that supplements or amends a treaty.
International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relations between nations. It establishes normative guidelines and a common conceptual framework for states to follow across a broad range of domains, including war, diplomacy, trade, and human rights. International law thus provides a mean for states to practice more stable, consistent, and organized international relations.
The Swiss businessman Henry Dunant went to visit wounded soldiers after the Battle of Solferino in 1859. He was shocked by the lack of facilities, personnel, and medical aid available to help these soldiers. As a result, he published his book, A Memory of Solferino , in 1862, on the horrors of war.His wartime experiences inspired Dunant to propose:
Henry Dunant, also known as Henri Dunant, was a Swiss humanitarian, businessman and social activist. He was the visionary, promoter and co-founder of the Red Cross.
The Battle of Solferino on 24 June 1859 resulted in the victory of the allied French Army under Napoleon III and Sardinian Army under Victor Emmanuel II against the Austrian Army under Emperor Franz Joseph I. It was the last major battle in world history where all the armies were under the personal command of their monarchs. Perhaps 300,000 soldiers fought in the important battle, the largest since the Battle of Leipzig in 1813. There were about 130,000 Austrian troops and a combined total of 140,000 French and allied Piedmontese troops. After the battle, the Austrian Emperor refrained from further direct command of the army.
A Memory of Solferino is a book of the Swiss humanitarian Henry Dunant published in 1862. It proved decisive in the founding of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Humanitarian aid is material and logistic assistance to people who need help. It is usually short-term help until the long-term help by government and other institutions replaces it. Among the people in need are the homeless, refugees, and victims of natural disasters, wars and famines. Humanitarian aid is material or logistical assistance provided for humanitarian purposes, typically in response to humanitarian relief efforts including natural disasters and man-made disaster. The primary objective of humanitarian aid is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity. It may therefore be distinguished from development aid, which seeks to address the underlying socioeconomic factors which may have led to a crisis or emergency. There is a debate on linking humanitarian aid and development efforts, which was reinforced by the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. However, the approach is viewed critically by practitioners.
The former proposal led to the establishment of the Red Cross in Geneva. The latter led to the 1864 Geneva Convention, the first codified international treaty that covered the sick and wounded soldiers on the battlefield. On 22 August 1866, the Swiss government invited the governments of all European countries, as well as the United States, Brazil, and Mexico, to attend an official diplomatic conference. Sixteen countries sent a total of twenty-six delegates to Geneva. On 22 August 1864, the conference adopted the first Geneva Convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field". Representatives of 12 states and kingdoms signed the convention:
Switzerland, officially the Swiss Confederation, is a sovereign state situated in the confluence of western, central, and southern Europe. It is a federal republic composed of 26 cantons, with federal authorities seated in Bern. Switzerland is a landlocked country bordered by Italy to the south, France to the west, Germany to the north, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. It is geographically divided between the Alps, the Swiss Plateau and the Jura, spanning a total area of 41,285 km2 (15,940 sq mi), and land area of 39,997 km2 (15,443 sq mi). While the Alps occupy the greater part of the territory, the Swiss population of approximately 8.5 million is concentrated mostly on the plateau, where the largest cities are located, among them the two global cities and economic centres of Zürich and Geneva.
The Grand Duchy of Baden was a state in the southwest German Empire on the east bank of the Rhine. It existed between 1806 and 1918.
Belgium, officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a sovereign state in Western Europe. It is bordered by the Netherlands to the north, Germany to the east, Luxembourg to the southeast, France to the southwest, and the North Sea to the northwest. It covers an area of 30,688 km2 (11,849 sq mi) and has a population of more than 11.4 million. The capital and largest city is Brussels; other major cities are Antwerp, Ghent, Charleroi and Liège.
For both of these accomplishments, Henry Dunant became corecipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. Since March 1901, it has been awarded annually to those who have "done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses".
On 20 October 1868 the first, unsuccessful, attempt to expand the 1864 treaty was undertaken. With the 'Additional Articles relating to the Condition of the Wounded in War' an attempt was initiated to clarify some rules of the 1864 convention and to extend them to maritime warfare. The Articles were signed but was only ratified by the Netherlands and North America.The Netherlands later withdrew their ratification. The protection of the victims of maritime warfare would later be realized by the third Hague Convention of 1899 and the tenth Hague Convention of 1907.
In 1906 thirty-five states attended a conference convened by the Swiss government. On 6 July 1906 it resulted in the adoption of the "Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field", which improved and supplemented, for the first time, the 1864 convention.It remained in force until 1970 when Costa Rica acceded to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.
The 1929 conference yielded two conventions that were signed on 27 July 1929. One, the "Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field", was the third version to replace the original convention of 1864.The other was adopted after experiences in World War I had shown the deficiencies in the protection of prisoners of war under the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. The "Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War" was not to replace these earlier conventions signed at The Hague, rather it supplemented them.
Inspired by the wave of humanitarian and pacifistic enthusiasm following World War II and the outrage towards the war crimes disclosed by the Nuremberg Trials, a series of conferences were held in 1949 reaffirming, expanding and updating the prior Geneva and Hague Conventions. It yielded four distinct conventions:
Despite the length of these documents, they were found over time to be incomplete. In fact, the very nature of armed conflicts had changed with the beginning of the Cold War era, leading many to believe that the 1949 Geneva Conventions were addressing a largely extinct reality:on the one hand, most armed conflicts had become internal, or civil wars, while on the other, most wars had become increasingly asymmetric. Moreover, modern armed conflicts were inflicting an increasingly higher toll on civilians, which brought the need to provide civilian persons and objects with tangible protections in time of combat, thus bringing a much needed update to the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. In light of these developments, two Protocols were adopted in 1977 that extended the terms of the 1949 Conventions with additional protections. In 2005, a third brief Protocol was added establishing an additional protective sign for medical services, the Red Crystal, as an alternative to the ubiquitous Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems, for those countries that find them objectionable.
The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949. Commentary (The Commentaries) is a series of four volumes of books published between 1952 and 1958 and containing commentaries to each of the four Geneva Conventions. The series was edited by Jean Pictet who was the vice-president of the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Commentaries are often relied upon to provide authoritative interpretation of the articles.
Parties to GC I–IV and P I–III
Parties to GC I–IV and P I–II
Parties to GC I–IV and P I and III
Parties to GC I–IV and P I
Parties to GC I–IV and P III
Parties to GC I–IV and no P
The Geneva Conventions are rules that apply only in times of armed conflict and seek to protect people who are not or are no longer taking part in hostilities; these include the sick and wounded of armed forces on the field, wounded, sick, and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians. The first convention dealt with the treatment of wounded and sick armed forces in the field.The second convention dealt with the sick, wounded, and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea. The third convention dealt with the treatment of prisoners of war during times of conflict. The fourth convention dealt with the treatment of civilians and their protection during wartime.
In diplomacy, the term convention does not have its common meaning as an assembly of people. Rather, it is used in diplomacy to mean an international agreement, or treaty.
With two Geneva Conventions revised and adopted, and the second and fourth added, in 1949 the whole set is referred to as the "Geneva Conventions of 1949" or simply the "Geneva Conventions". Usually only the Geneva Conventions of 1949 are referred to as First, Second, Third or Fourth Geneva Convention. The treaties of 1949 were ratified, in whole or with reservations, by 196 countries.
The 1949 conventions have been modified with three amendment protocols:
The Geneva Conventions apply at times of war and armed conflict to governments who have ratified its terms. The details of applicability are spelled out in Common Articles 2 and 3.
This article states that the Geneva Conventions apply to all cases of international conflict, where at least one of the warring nations have ratified the Conventions. Primarily:
Article 1 of Protocol I further clarifies that armed conflict against colonial domination and foreign occupation also qualifies as an international conflict.
When the criteria of international conflict have been met, the full protections of the Conventions are considered to apply.
This article states that the certain minimum rules of war apply to armed conflicts " where at least one Party is not a State". The interpretation of the term armed conflict and therefore the applicability of this article is a matter of debate. For example, it would apply to conflicts between the Government and rebel forces, or between two rebel forces, or to other conflicts that have all the characteristics of war, whether carried out within the confines of one country or not. There is two criteria to distinguish non-international armed conflicts from lower forms of violence. The level of violence has to be of certain intensity, for example when the state cannot contain the situation with regular police forces. Also, involved non-state groups need to have a certain level of organization, like a military command structure.
The other Geneva Conventions are not applicable in this situation but only the provisions contained within Article 3,and additionally within the language of Protocol II. The rationale for the limitation is to avoid conflict with the rights of Sovereign States that were not part of the treaties. When the provisions of this article apply, it states that:
The term protecting power has a specific meaning under these Conventions. A protecting power is a state that is not taking part in the armed conflict, but that has agreed to look after the interests of a state that is a party to the conflict. The protecting power is a mediator enabling the flow of communication between the parties to the conflict. The protecting power also monitors implementation of these Conventions, such as by visiting the zone of conflict and prisoners of war. The protecting power must act as an advocate for prisoners, the wounded, and civilians.
Not all violations of the treaty are treated equally. The most serious crimes are termed grave breaches, and provide a legal definition of a war crime. Grave breaches of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions include the following acts if committed against a person protected by the convention:
Also considered grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention are the following:
Nations who are party to these treaties must enact and enforce legislation penalizing any of these crimes. Nations are also obligated to search for persons alleged to commit these crimes, or persons having ordered them to be committed, and to bring them to trial regardless of their nationality and regardless of the place where the crimes took place.
The principle of universal jurisdiction also applies to the enforcement of grave breaches when the UN Security Council asserts its authority and jurisdiction from the UN Charter to apply universal jurisdiction. The UNSC did this when they established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia to investigate and/or prosecute alleged violations.
Although warfare has changed dramatically since the Geneva Conventions of 1949, they are still considered the cornerstone of contemporary international humanitarian law. [ dubious ]They protect combatants who find themselves hors de combat, and they protect civilians caught up in the zone of war. These treaties came into play for all recent international armed conflicts, including the War in Afghanistan, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the invasion of Chechnya (1994–present), and the 2008 War in Georgia. The Geneva Conventions also protect those affected by non-international armed conflicts such as the Syrian Civil War.
The lines between combatants and civilians have blurred when the actors are not exclusively High Contracting Parties (HCP).Since the fall of the Soviet Union, an HCP often is faced with a non-state actor, as argued by General Wesley Clark in 2007. Examples of such conflict include the Sri Lankan Civil War, the Sudanese Civil War, and the Colombian Armed Conflict, as well as most military engagements of the US since 2000.
Some scholars hold that Common Article 3 deals with these situations, supplemented by Protocol II (1977).[ dubious ] These set out minimum legal standards that must be followed for internal conflicts. International tribunals, particularly the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), have clarified international law in this area. In the 1999 Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic judgement, the ICTY ruled that grave breaches apply not only to international conflicts, but also to internal armed conflict.[ dubious ] Further, those provisions are considered customary international law.
Controversy has arisen over the US designation of irregular opponents as "unlawful enemy combatants" (see also unlawful combatant) especially in the SCOTUS judgments over the Guantanamo Bay brig facility Hamdi v. Rumsfeld , Hamdan v. Rumsfeld and Rasul v. Bush ,and later Boumediene v. Bush . President George W. Bush, aided by Attorneys-General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales and General Keith B. Alexander, claimed the power, as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, to determine that any person, including an American citizen, who is suspected of being a member, agent, or associate of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or possibly any other terrorist organization, is an "enemy combatant" who can be detained in U.S. military custody until hostilities end, pursuant to the international law of war.
The application of the Geneva Conventions to the 2014 conflict in Ukraine (Crimea) is a troublesome problem because some of the personnel who engaged in combat against the Ukrainians were not identified by insignia, although they did wear military-style fatigues.The types of comportment qualified as acts of perfidy under jus in bello doctrine are listed in Articles 37 through 39 of the Geneva Convention; the prohibition of fake insignia is listed at Article 39.2, but the law is silent on the complete absence of insignia. The status of POW captured in this circumstance remains a question.
Educational institutions and organizations including Harvard University,the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute use the Geneva Convention as a primary text investigating torture and warfare.
Artificial intelligence and autonomous weapon systems, such as military robots and cyber-weapons are creating new threats to the world. These complexity of new challenges impedes the process of classification of conflict situations and makes it difficult to determine the exact rules that may be applied to save humanity.
The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian movement with approximately 17 million volunteers, members and staff worldwide which was founded to protect human life and health, to ensure respect for all human beings, and to prevent and alleviate human suffering.
A war crime is an act that constitutes a serious violation of the laws of war that gives rise to individual criminal responsibility. Examples of war crimes include intentionally killing civilians or prisoners, torturing, destroying civilian property, taking hostages, performing a perfidy, raping, using child soldiers, pillaging, declaring that no quarter will be given, and seriously violating the principles of distinction and proportionality, and military necessity.
The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949. While the first three conventions dealt with combatants, the Fourth Geneva Convention was the first to deal with humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone. There are currently 196 countries party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including this and the other three treaties.
In general, a civilian is "a person who is not a member of the military or of a police or firefighting force". The definition distinguishes from persons whose duties involves risking their lives to protect the public at large from hazardous situations such as terrorism, riots, conflagrations, or wars. "Criminals" are also excluded from the category.
Unlawful combatant, illegal combatant, unprivileged combatant/belligerent or enemy combatant are informal terms used to refer to a person who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war or is fighting outside of internationally recognized military forces. An unlawful combatant may be detained or prosecuted under the domestic law of the detaining state for such action. The International Committee of the Red Cross points out that the terms are not defined in any international agreements.
The law of war refers to the component of international law that regulates the conditions for war and the conduct of warring parties. Laws of war define sovereignty and nationhood, states and territories, occupation, and other critical terms of international law.
Combatant is the legal status of an individual who has the right to engage in hostilities during an international armed conflict. The legal definition of "combatant" is found at article 43 of Additional Protocol One to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [AP1]. It states that "Members of the armed forces of a Party to a conflict are combatants, that is to say, they have the right to participate directly in hostilities."
Non-combatant is a term of art in the law of war and international humanitarian law, having civilians who are not taking a direct part in hostilities; persons—such as combat medics and military chaplains—who are members of the belligerent armed forces but are protected because of their specific duties ; combatants who are placed hors de combat; and neutral persons not involved in fighting for one of the belligerents involved in a war. This particular status was first recognized under the Geneva Conventions with the First Geneva Convention of 1864.
The Second Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea was first adopted in 1949, it replaced the Hague Convention (X) of 1907. It adapts the main protective regime of the First Geneva Convention to combat at sea.
The First Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field, held on 22 August 1864, is the first of four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It defines "the basis on which rest the rules of international law for the protection of the victims of armed conflicts." After the first treaty was adopted in 1864, it was significantly revised and replaced in 1906, 1929, and finally 1949. It is inextricably linked to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which is both the instigator for the inception and enforcer of the articles in these conventions.
The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War was first adopted in 1929, but significantly revised at the 1949 conference. It defines humanitarian protections for prisoners of war. There are 196 state parties to the Convention.
International humanitarian law (IHL), also referred to as the laws of armed conflict, is the law that regulates the conduct of war. It is a branch of international law which seeks to limit the effects of armed conflict by protecting persons who are not participating in hostilities, and by restricting and regulating the means and methods of warfare available to combatants.
Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of international conflicts, where "armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes" are to be considered international conflicts. It reaffirms the international laws of the original Geneva Conventions of 1949, but adds clarifications and new provisions to accommodate developments in modern international warfare that have taken place since the Second World War.
Protocol II is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts. It defines certain international laws that strive to provide better protection for victims of internal armed conflicts that take place within the borders of a single country. The scope of these laws is more limited than those of the rest of the Geneva Conventions out of respect for sovereign rights and duties of national governments.
The Geneva Convention (1929) was signed at Geneva, July 27, 1929. Its official name is the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, Geneva July 27, 1929. It entered into force 19 June 1931. It is this version of the Geneva Conventions which covered the treatment of prisoners of war during World War II. It is the predecessor of the Third Geneva Convention signed in 1949.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is a humanitarian institution based in Geneva, Switzerland, and a three-time Nobel Prize Laureate. State parties (signatories) to the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols of 1977 and 2005 have given the ICRC a mandate to protect victims of international and internal armed conflicts. Such victims include war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants.
Protective signs are symbols to be used during an armed conflict to mark persons and objects under the protection of various treaties of international humanitarian law (IHL). While their essential meaning can be summarized as "Don't shoot" or "Don't attack", the exact conditions implied vary depending on the respective sign and the circumstances of its use. The form, shape and color of these signs are defined by the rules of IHL. Usually, they are easy to draw in order to make even an improvised use as easy as possible, and they were chosen to be as concise, recognizable and visible as possible under all circumstances.
The Rule of Law in Armed Conflicts Project is an initiative of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights to support the application and implementation of the international law of armed conflict.
The Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field, consisting of 39 articles in French, was adopted on 27 July 1929, at the end of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1929, which met from the 27 July until the 1 August of that year.
Protected persons is a legal term under international humanitarian law and refers to persons who are under specific protection of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, their 1977 Additional Protocols, and customary international humanitarian law during an armed conflict.
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 Geneva Convention for the Relief of the Wounded and Sick in Armies in the Field of July 27, 1929 [...]
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 Xth Hague Convention of October 18, 1907 for the Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention of 1906 [...]
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 [...]
In the relations between the Powers who are bound by the Hague Conventions respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land, whether that of July 29, 1899, or that of October 18, 1907, and who are parties to the present Convention, this last Convention shall be supplementary to Sections II and III of the Regulations annexed to the above-mentioned Conventions of The Hague.
Article 49 of the 1949 Geneva Convention I, Article 50 of the 1949 Geneva Convention II, Article 129 of the 1949 Geneva Convention III and Article 146 of the 1949 Geneva Convention IV provide: The High Contracting Parties undertake to enact any legislation necessary to provide effective penal sanctions for persons committing, or ordering to be committed, any of the grave breaches of the present Convention defined in the following Article. Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed [grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions], and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts. It may also, if it prefers, and in accordance with the provisions of its own legislation, hand such persons over for trial to another High Contracting Party concerned, provided such High Contracting Party has made out a prima facie case.