The Geneva Conventions are a set of four treaties of international law at wartime. They were formulated in Geneva, Switzerland. All of the four treaties are about humanitarian issues. The Swiss Henri Dunant was the person who started the creation of the Conventions. He did this after he saw the unimaginable cruelty of the Battle of Solferino in 1859.
The four Conventions
The conventions and their agreements are as follows:
- 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). This was to make things better for people which have been injured in battle. It basically says that the medical teams on the battlefield must help anyone who is injured, not just people from their own side.
- Second Geneva Convention "for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea" (first adopted in 1949, came after looking over the 1907 Hague Convention X). Similar to the first convention, but for battles that happen at sea.
- Third Geneva Convention "relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War" (started in 1929, last revision in 1949). This convention says that a prisoner of war has certain rights. In the recent past, the United States made headlines. They said that some of the Taliban fighters they captured in Afghanistan were not prisoners of war, but illegal combatants, so they did not have these rights.
- 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). When there is a war, the people who do not take part in the war (they are called civilians) must be protected in some ways. This convention says how to do it.
In addition, there are three more protocols to the Geneva Conventions:
- Protocol I (1977): Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts. This treaty says how victims of conflicts and wars should be dealt with.
- Protocol II (1977): Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and about the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts. This is about victims of civil wars.
- Protocol III (2005): Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem. This is about the introduction of the red diamond, as a symbol of the Red Cross that is free of religious connotations.
After the First Convention was agreed, the International Committee of the Red Cross was founded in 1863.
All four conventions were last checked and agreed on in 1949. Those versions are related to previous revisions. In some cases, ideas from the 1907 Hague Convention were added. Usually, people refer to all four conventions as the "Geneva Conventions of 1949" or simply the "Geneva Conventions". Later conferences have added text that makes it illegal to use certain kinds of warfare, like chemical warfare. They have also spoken about issues of civil wars.
By the Fourth Geneva Convention in 1949, some 47 nations had ratified the agreements.
Today, nearly all 200 countries of the world are "signatory" nations. This means they have signed and agreed to follow the Geneva Conventions.
- Prisoners of war
- International Committee of the Red Cross
- War crimes (crimes that break the Geneva Conventions during a war)
- International Criminal Court (a court that can try people who break the Geneva Conventions)
- States party to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols
- Red Cross and Geneva Conventions
- Texts of the Conventions Source: ICRC 1949 Conventions and 1977 Protocols Source: Society of Professional Journalists
- Reference Guide to the Geneva Conventions
- United Nation's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights - International Human Rights Instruments
- Geneva Conventions at Law-Ref.org - fully indexed and crosslinked with other documents
- list of states which have signed the Geneva conventions (1929 and 1949) and additional protocols (1977) (documents in French) — Switzerland is currently the depositary of approximately 60 international treaties and lists of the states parties to each of these treaties (in French). There is also database access.
- Geneva Conventions depository overview in English (.PDF) created from the Swiss archives by Advocacy & Intelligence Index For POWs-MIAs Archives