Geneva Conventions, 1949

(redirected from 1949 Geneva Conventions)

Geneva Conventions, 1949

The horrors of World War II led nations to recognize that existing rules governing the conduct of warfare were inadequate to cover a prolonged and expanded conflict. The resulting efforts to codify new restrictions on belligerent conflict led to the four conventions concluded at Geneva, Switzerland, in 1949. These four treaties related to (1) the treatment of prisoners of war; (2) the alleviation of the suffering of wounded and sick combatants in the field; (3) the alleviation of the suffering of the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea; and (4) the protection of civilian persons during war.

The International Committee of the Red Cross was active in organizing the conferences and preparing draft treaties that resulted in the final conventions. In addition, the International Red Cross assumed responsibility under portions of the conventions to serve as a neutral party to observe compliance with the conventions and to perform humanitarian tasks.

According to Swedish researchers, 95 percent of all deaths in World War I were suffered by soldiers. In World War II, the figure dropped to 50 percent—the remaining deaths were those of civilians when their cities (e.g., London, Coventry, Dresden, Hiroshima, Nagasaki) were bombed. Unfortunately, the statistics worsened. The civilian deaths from the Korean War is usually estimated at two to three million, and estimates place the number of civilian deaths from the Vietnam War at approximately 365,000. Between 1974 and 1977, the Diplomatic Conference on the Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law, meeting in Geneva, adopted two protocols to be added to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. One applies to international armed conflicts and the other to non-international armed conflicts. Both significantly provide for enhanced protection of the non-combatant, civilian populations.

Yet another concern for the effectiveness of the Geneva Conventions surfaced over the years. It became increasingly evident that, despite "grave breaches" of protocols, the Geneva Conventions lacked enforcement power. Moreover, those nations ratifying the conventions (59 initial signatories in 1949) were usually not the offenders. (With the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, each of the newly independent states that succeeded the former Soviet Union has adhered to the conventions and, excepting Lithuania and Azerbaijan, the additional protocols.) Many of the crimes against humanity were (and are) being committed by warring factions within a country, resulting in genocides, ethnic or religious antagonism, and ultimately the collapse of state structures. In these circumstances, ratification by the prior state entity means little.

With a world community that, in 2000, comprised more than 180 sovereign states, a major overhaul of the Geneva Conventions remained elusive. However, the world community has united to create newer entities such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in 1993 and the adoption in Rome of the Statute of the International Criminal Court in 1998. These entities have adjudication and sentencing authority, which gives some enforcement power to prosecute and punish those who commit the crimes against humanity outlined in the conventions and protocols. However, the power to identify, pursue, and apprehend suspected violators varies, depending on the circumstances.

Further readings

Bugnion, Francis. 2000. "The Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949: From the 1949 Diplomatic Conference to the Dawn of …" International Affairs 76.

Goldstein, Richard. 2002. "International Law and Justice in America's War on Terrorism." Social Research 69.

Cross-references

International Court of Justice; International Law.

References in periodicals archive ?
The Global Coalition to protect Education from Attack also said, During situations of armed conflict, attacks on education may violate international humanitarian and criminal law and constitute war crimes (or crimes against humanity during war or peacetime) as set out in the 1907 Hague Regulations, the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, and customary international humanitarian law.
Additional Protocols to the 1949 Geneva Conventions were opened for
The UAE is signatory to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which require states to disseminate the content of the humanitarian treaty as widely as possible in their respective countries.
The most significant of these treaties regarding military commissions are the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, particularly, Geneva Convention III Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, (144) and Geneva Convention IV Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War.
There are currently 196 countries party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including this and the other three treaties.
Additionally, Israel signed the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which state, "The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
The war crimes condensed in Article 8 of the Rome Statute were already considered as such in the 1949 Geneva Conventions, to which both Israel and the United States are state parties.
Fundamental disagreement' Russia on Friday accused Ukraine of breaching the 1949 Geneva Conventions protecting civilians in wartime by killing and wounding peaceful citizens during its seven-week "anti-terrorist operation" in the separatist industrial regions of Lugansk and Donetsk.
Description : The international committee of the red cross (icrc) is an impartial, neutral and independent organization that draws its mandate from the 1949 geneva conventions and their additional protocols of 1977.
The 1949 Geneva Conventions set forth two primary and comprehensive categories of armed conflict that trigger the application of LOAC: international armed conflict and non-international armed conflict.
Aisha Abdullahi, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, noted that the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the 1977 additional protocols remain important tools for the protection of civilians.
International humanitarian law prohibits the deliberate targeting of civilians, as stipulated in Articles 48-51 of the 1977 First Protocol Additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions.