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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1864 treaty of the First Geneva Convention

The Geneva Conventions are made up of four treaties and three additional protocols that set the standards in international law for humanitarian treatment of the victims of war. The singular term Geneva Convention refers to the agreements of 1949, negotiated in the aftermath of World War II, updating the terms of the first three treaties and adding a fourth treaty. The language is extensive, with articles defining the basic rights of those captured during a military conflict, establishing protections for the wounded, and addressing protections for civilians in and around a war zone. The treaties of 1949 have been ratified, in whole or with reservations, by 194 countries.[1]

Protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs. They shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof and against insults and public curiosity. Women shall be especially protected against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitution, or any form of indecent assault. Without prejudice to the provisions relating to their state of health, age and sex, all protected persons shall be treated with the same consideration by the Party to the conflict in whose power they are, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, religion or political opinion. However, the Parties to the conflict may take such measures of control and security in regard to protected persons as may be necessary as a result of the war.

—- Article 27, Fourth Geneva Convention

The Geneva Conventions do not address the use of weapons of war, as this is covered by the Hague Conventions (1899 and 1907) and the Geneva Protocol.



In 1862, Henri Dunant published his book, Memoir of Solferino, on the horrors of war.[2] His wartime experiences inspired Dunant to propose (1) a permanent relief agency for humanitarian aid in times of war, and (2) a government treaty recognizing the neutrality of the agency and allowing it to provide aid in a war zone. The former proposal led to the establishment of the Red Cross. The latter led to the First Geneva Convention. For both of these accomplishments, Henri Dunant became corecipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.[3][4]

The ten articles of this first treaty were initially adopted in 1864 by twelve nations.[5] Clara Barton was instrumental in campaigning for the ratification of the First Geneva Convention by the United States, which eventually ratified it in 1882.[6]

The second treaty was first adopted in 1906 and specifically addressed members of the Armed Forces at sea. The third treaty was first adopted in 1929 to deal with the protection of prisoners of war. The fourth treaty was inspired by the war criminals of the Nuremberg Trials and first adopted in 1949. It reaffirmed the prior three treaties and added many new terms, including the protection of civilians during wartime.

Despite the length of these documents, they were found over time to be incomplete. In 1977, two protocols were adopted that extended the terms of the 1949 treaty 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 conventions and their agreements

The Geneva Conventions comprise rules that apply in times of armed conflict and seek to protect people who are not or are no longer taking part in hostilities, for example:

  • wounded or sick fighters
  • prisoners of war
  • civilians
  • medical and religious personnel


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. The first three Geneva Conventions were revised and expanded in 1949, and the fourth was added at that time.

The whole set is referred to as the "Geneva Conventions of 1949" or simply the "Geneva Convention".


The 1949 conventions have been modified with three amendment protocols:

  • Protocol I (1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts
  • Protocol II (1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts
  • Protocol III (2005) relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (for medical services)


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. The reader should recognize the controversial nature of the topic of applicability. When the Geneva Conventions apply, governments must surrender a certain degree of their national sovereignty to comply with international law. These laws may not be entirely harmonious with their national constitution or their cultural values. Despite the advantages offered by the Conventions to individuals, political pressures may cause the governments to be reluctant in accepting its responsibilities.

Common Article 2

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:

  • The Conventions apply to all cases of declared war between signatory nations. This is the original sense of applicability, which predates the 1949 version.
  • The Conventions apply to all cases of armed conflict between two or more signatory nations, even in the absence of a declaration of war. This language was added in 1949 to accommodate situations that have all the characteristics of war without the existence of a formal declaration of war, such as a police action.[7]
  • The Conventions apply to a signatory nation even if the opposing nation is not bound by it. By 1949, the treaty was becoming viewed less as a reciprocal contract and more as an agreement on fundamental human rights. Ratifying the treaty binds the nation to uphold these rights regardless of the behavior of the opposing nation.[7]

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.

Common Article 3

This article states that the certain minimum rules of war also apply to armed conflicts that are not of an international character, but that are contained within the boundaries of a single country. The applicability of this article rests on the interpretation of the term armed conflict.[7] 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 but that are carried out within the confines of a single country. A handful of individuals attacking a police station would not be considered an armed conflict subject to this article, but only subject to the laws of the country in question.

The provisions of the entire Geneva Convention are not applicable in this situation, but only a limited list of provisions contained within the language of Article 3,[7] and additionally within the language of Protocol II. The rationale for the limitation is that many articles would otherwise conflict with the rights of a Sovereign State. In summary:

  • Persons taking no active part in hostilities should be treated humanely (including military persons who have ceased to be active as a result of sickness, injury, or detention).
  • The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for and treated with respect


Protecting powers

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.

Grave breaches

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:

  • willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments
  • willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
  • compelling one to serve in the forces of a hostile power
  • willfully depriving one of the right to a fair trial.

Also considered grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention are the following:

  • taking of hostages
  • extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly
  • unlawful deportation, transfer, or confinement.[8]

Nations who are party to these treaties must enact and enforce legislation penalizing any of these crimes.[9] Nations are also obligated to search for persons alleged to commit these crimes, or 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. Toward this end, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia were established by the United Nations to prosecute alleged violations.

The Geneva Conventions today

Although warfare has changed dramatically since the Geneva Conventions of 1949, they are still considered the cornerstone of contemporary International Humanitarian Law.[10] 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 (2001–present), the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the 2008 War in Georgia.

Modern warfare continues to evolve, and a growing proportion of recent armed conflicts are of a non-international character[11] (for instance, the Sri Lankan Civil War, the Sudanese Civil War, and the Colombian Armed Conflict). Common Article 3 deals with these situations, supplemented by Protocol II (1977). These set out minimum legal standards that must be followed for internal conflicts. International tribunals, particularly the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, have helped to clarify international law in this area.[12] In the 1999 Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic judgement, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia ruled that grave breaches apply not only to international conflicts, but also to internal armed conflict. Further, those provisions are considered customary international law, allowing war crimes prosecution even over groups that have not formally accepted the terms of the Geneva Conventions.

See also


  1. ^ "State Parties / Signatories: Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949". International Humanitarian Law. International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved 2007-01-22. 
  2. ^ Dunant, Henry. A Memory of Solferino.  English version, full text online.
  3. ^ Abrams, Irwin (2001). The Nobel Peace Prize and the Laureates: An Illustrated Biographical History, 1901-2001. USA: Science History Publications. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  4. ^ The story of an idea, film on the creation of the Red Cross, Red Crescent Movement and the Geneva Conventions
  5. ^ Roxburgh, Ronald (1920). International Law: A Treatise. London: Longmans, Green and co.. p. 707. Retrieved 2009-07-14.  The original twelve original countries were Switzerland, Baden, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hesse, Holland, Italy, Portugal, Prussia, Spain, and Wurtemburg.
  6. ^ Burton, David (1995). Clara Barton: in the service of humanity. London: Greenwood Publishing Group. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  7. ^ a b c d Pictet, Jean (1958). Geneva Conventions of 12 August, 1949: Commentary. International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved 2009-07-15. 
  8. ^ How "grave breaches" are defined in the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols, International Committee of the Red Cross.
  9. ^ For example, the War Crimes Act of 1996.
  10. ^ "The Geneva Conventions Today". International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  11. ^ "Sixty years of the Geneva Conventions and the decades ahead". International Committee of the Red Cross. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 
  12. ^ "The Prosecutor v. Dusko Tadic - Case No. IT-94-1-A". International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Retrieved 2009-11-16. 

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Geneva Convention

The term Geneva Convention refers to four different treaties and three additional protocols.

  • First Geneva Convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field" (first adopted in 1864, last revision in 1949)
  • Second Geneva Convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea" (first adopted in 1949, successor of the 1907 Hague Convention X)
  • Third Geneva Convention "relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War" (first adopted in 1929 as the Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, last revision in 1949) This is usually the document people are referring to when they speak of the Geneva Convention without reference to which one it is.
  • Fourth Geneva Convention "relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War" (first adopted in 1949, based on parts of the 1907 Hague Convention IV)
  • Protocol I "relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts" (adopted in 1977)
  • Protocol II "relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts" (adopted in 1977)
  • Protocol III "relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem" (adopted in 2005)

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

GENEVA CONVENTION, an international agreement for the purpose of improving the condition of wounded soldiers of armies in the field, originally adopted at an international conference held at Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864, and afterwards replaced by the convention of July 6, 1906, also adopted at Geneva. This later agreement is the one now known as the Geneva Convention.

The conference of 1864 was the result of a movement which sprang from the publication in 1862 of a book entitled Un Souvenir de Solferino by Henri Dunant, a Genevese philanthropist, in which he described the sufferings of the wounded at the battle of Solferino with such vivid effect that the subject became forthwith one of public interest. It was energetically taken up by M. Gustave Moynier, whose agitation led to an unofficial congress being held at Geneva in October 1863. This was followed by an official one at Geneva, called by the Swiss government in 1864. The convention which was there signed (22nd August 1864) on behalf of the states represented, afterwards received the adherence of every civilized power.

At a second conference on the same subject, held at Geneva in 1868, a supplementary convention was drawn up, consisting of fourteen additional articles, five of which related to war on land and nine to naval warfare. The additional articles were not, however, ratified by the chief states, and never became operative. The Brussels International Conference (1874) for the codification of the law and customs of war occupied itself with the Geneva Convention and again drew up a number of articles which were submitted to the interested governments. But, as in the case of the additional articles of 1868, no effect was ever given to them.

At the Peace Conference of 1899 Great Britain withdrew her objections to the application of the convention to maritime warfare, and agreed to the adoption of a special convention "adapting to Maritime warfare the principles of the Geneva Convention." A voeu was also adopted by the conference expressing the wish that a special conference should be held as soon as possible for the purpose of revising the convention of 1864.

In deference to the above voeu the Swiss government in 190 sounded the other parties to the convention of 1864 as to whether the time had not come to call the proposed special conference, but the replies received did not give much encouragement and the matter was dropped for the time being. By a circular note of the 17th of February 1903, the Swiss government invited all the states which had signed or adhered to the Geneva Convention to send representatives to a conference to be held, at Geneva in the following September. Some governments did not accept the invitation in time and the conference had to be postponed.

At the beginning of 1904, there being no apparent obstacle, the Swiss government again invited the powers to send delegates to a conference in the following May. Meanwhile war broke out between Russia and Japan and there was again an adjournment. At length in March 1906 an invitation was accepted by thirty-five states, only Turkey, Salvador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Colombia abstaining and the conference was held at Geneva in July 1906, when a full revised convention was adopted, which now takes the place of that of 1864.1 The adoption of the new Geneva Convention entailed a revision of the above-mentioned Hague Convention and a new edition of the latter is one of the documents adopted at the Peace Conference of 1907.

The new Geneva Convention consists of thirty-three articles divided into the following chapters, (i.) the wounded and sick; (ii.) medical units and establishments; (iii.) personnel; (iv.) material; (v.) convoys of evacuation; (vi.) the distinctive emblem; (vii.) application and carrying out of the Convention; (viii.) prevention of abuses and infractions; (ix.) general pro visions.

The essential parts of the new Hague Convention of 1907 (18th of October) adapting the above conventions to maritime warfare as follows: (N.B. The alterations are in italics. The parts of the older convention of 1899 which have been suppressed are in brackets).

i. Military hospital-ships, that is to say, ships constructed or assigned by states specially and solely for the purpose of assisting the wounded, sick or shipwrecked, and the names of which shall have been communicated to the belligerent powers at the commencement or during the course of hostilities, and in any case before they are employed, shall be respected and cannot be captured while hostilities last.

These ships, moreover, are not on the same footing as men-of-war as regards their stay in a neutral port.

ii. Hospital-ships, equipped wholly or in part at the cost of private individuals or officially-recognized Relief Societies, shall likewise be respected and exempt from capture, provided the belligerent power to whom they belong has given them an official commission and has notified their names to the hostile power at the commencement of or during hostilities, and in any case before they are employed. These ships should be furnished with a certificate from the competent authorities, declaring that they had been under their control while fitting out and on final departure.

iii. Hospital-ships, equipped wholly or in part at the cost of private individuals or officially-recognized Societies of neutral countries shall be respected and exempt from capture [if the neutral power to whom they belong has given them an official commission and notified their names to the belligerent powers at the commencement of or during hostilities, and in any case before they are employed] on condition that they are placed under the orders of one of the belligerents, with the previous consent of their own Government and with the authorization of the belligerent, and on condition that the latter shall have notified their names to the enemy at the commencement or during the course of hostilities, in any event, before they are employed.

iv. The ships mentioned in Articles i., ii. and iii. shall afford relief and assistance to the wounded, sick and shipwrecked of the belligerents independently of their nationality.

The governments engage not to use these ships for any military purpose.

These ships must not in any way hamper the movements of the combatants.

During and after an engagement they will act at their own risk and peril.

The belligerents will have the right to control and visit them; they can refuse to help them, order them off, make them take a. certain course, and put a commissioner on board; they can even detain them, if important circumstances require it.

As far as possible the belligerents shall inscribe in the sailing papers of the hospital-ships the orders they give them.

v. The military hospital-ships shall be distinguished by being painted white outside with a horizontal band of green about a metre and a half in breadth. The ships mentioned in Articles ii. and iii. shall be distinguished by being painted white outside with a horizontal band of red about a metre and a half in breadth. The boats of the ships above mentioned, as also small craft which may be used for hospital work, shall be distinguished by similar painting.

All hospital-ships shall make themselves known by hoisting, together with their national flag, the white flag with a red cross provided by the Geneva Convention, and, in addition, if they belong to a neutral State, by hoisting on the mainmast the national flag of the belligerent under whose direction they are placed. Hospital-ships which, under the terms of Article

iv., are detained by 1 Another International Conference held in December 1904 at the Hague dealt with the status of hospital-ships in time of war. Great Britain did not take part in this Conference. Her abstention,. however, was not owing to any objection of principle, but purely to considerations of domestic legislation. the enemy, must lower the national flag of the belligerent under whom they were acting. The above-mentioned vessels and boats, desiring at night-time to ensure the respect due to them, shall, with the consent of the belligerent whom they are accompanying, take the necessary steps that the special painting denoting them shall be sufficiently conspicuous.

vi. [Neutral merchantmen, yachts or vessels, having, or taking on board, sick, wounded or shipwrecked of the belligerents, cannot be captured for so doing, but they are liable to capture for any violation of neutrality they may have committed.] The distinctive signs provided by Article v. can only be used, whether in time of peace or in time of war, to protect ships therein mentioned.

vii. In the case of a fight on board a war-ship, the hospitals shall be respected and shall receive as much consideration as possible. These hospitals and their belongings are subject to the laws of war, but shall not be employed for any other purpose so long as they shall be necessary for the sick and wounded. Nevertheless, the commander who has them under his orders, may make use of them in case of important military necessity, but he shall first ensure the safety of the sick and wounded on board.

viii. The protection due to hospital-ships and to hospitals on board war-ships shall cease if they are used against the enemy. The fact that the crew of hospital-ships, and attached to hospitals on war-ships, are armed for the maintenance of order and for the defence of the sick or wounded, and the existence of a radio-telegraphic installation on board, is not considered as a justification for withdrawing the above-mentioned protection.

ix. Belligerents may appeal to the charitable zeal of commanders of neutral merchant vessels, yachts or other craft, to take on board and look after the sick and wounded. Ships having responded to this appeal, as well as those who have spontaneously taken on board sick, wounded or shipwrecked men, shall have the advantage of a special protection and of certain immunities. In no case shall they be liable to capture on account of such transport; but subject to any promise made to them they are liable to capture for any violation of neutrality they may have committed. [vii.] x. The religious, medical or hospital staff of any captured ship is inviolable, and its members cannot be made prisoners of war. On leaving the ship they take with them the objects and surgical instruments which are their own private property.

This staff shall continue to discharge its duties while necessary, and can afterwards leave when the commander-in-chief considers it possible.

The belligerents must guarantee to the staff that has fallen into their hands [the enjoyment of their salaries intact] the same allowances and pay as those of persons of the same rank in their own navy. [viii.] xi. Sailors and soldiers, and other persons officially attached to navies or armies, who are taken on board when sick or wounded, to whatever nation they belong, shall be [protected] respected and looked after by the captors.

xii. Every vessel of war of a belligerent party may claim the return of the wounded, sick or shipwrecked who are on board military hospitalships, hospital-ships of aid societies or of private individuals, merchant ships, yachts or other craft, whatever be the nationality of these vessels. xiii. If the wounded, sick or shipwrecked are received on board a neutral ship of war, it shall be provided, as far as possible, that they may take no further part in war operations. xiv. The shipwrecked, wounded or sick of one of the belligerents who fall into the hands of the other, are prisoners of war. The captor must decide, according to circumstances, if it is best to keep them or send them to a port of his own country, to a neutral port, or even to a hostile port. In the last case, prisoners thus repatriated cannot serve as long as the war lasts.

xv. The shipwrecked, wounded or sick who are landed at a neutral port with the consent of the local authorities, must, failing a contrary arrangement between the neutral State and the belligerents, be guarded by the neutral State, so that they may not be again able to take part in the military operations.

The expenses of hospital treatment and internment shall be borne by the State to which the shipwrecked, wounded or sick belong. (T. BA.)

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Proper noun

Wikipedia has an article on:


the Geneva Convention

  1. An international treaty which defines the required treatment for prisoners of war by their captors.

Usage notes

  • There are four international treaties, collectively the "Geneva Conventions", establishing international law for conduct during war.


  • Catalan: Convencions de Ginebra f. pl. (ca)
  • German: Genfer Konvention f. (de) f.
  • Slovene: Ženevska konvencija f.
  • Spanish: Convenciones de Ginebra f. pl. (es)
  • Finnish: Geneven sopimukset [1]


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