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upright=1.15, Original document as PDF in single pages, 1864 The Geneva Conventions are four
treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally accepted in relati ...

treaties
, and three additional
protocols Protocol may refer to: Sociology and politics * Protocol (politics), a formal agreement between nation states * Protocol (diplomacy), the etiquette of diplomacy and affairs of state * Etiquette, a code of personal behavior Science and technology ...
, that establish international legal standards 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 World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
(1939–1945), which updated the terms of the two 1929 treaties and added two new conventions. The Geneva Conventions extensively define the basic rights of wartime prisoners (civilians and
military personnel Military personnel are members of the state's armed forces A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare. It is typically authorized and maintained by a sovere ...
), established protections for the wounded and sick, and provided protections for the civilians in and around a war-zone; moreover, the Geneva Convention also defines the rights and protections afforded to
non-combatants Non-combatant is a term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology Terminology is a general word for the group of specialized words or meanings relating to a particular field, and also the study of such terms and their use. This is also k ...
. The treaties of 1949 were ratified, in their entirety or with reservations, by 196 countries. The Geneva Conventions concern only combatants in war; they do not address the use of
weapons A weapon, arm or armament is any implement or device that can be used with the intent to inflict physical damage or harm. Weapons are used to increase the efficacy and efficiency of activities such as hunting Hunting is the practice of se ...
of war, which are instead addressed by the
Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 File:Vredesconferentie Den Haag, Tweede 1907 - Second Peace Conference The Hague 1907.jpg, , The Second Hague Conference in 1907 The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaty, treaties and declarations negotiated at tw ...
, which concern conventional weapons, and the
Geneva Protocol The Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare, usually called the Geneva Protocol, is a treaty A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agre ...

Geneva Protocol
, which concerns
biological Biology is the natural science Natural science is a branch of science Science (from the Latin word ''scientia'', meaning "knowledge") is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and Taxonomy (general), organizes knowl ...
and
chemical warfare Chemical warfare (CW) involves using the toxic properties of chemical substances as Chemical weapon, weapons. This type of warfare is distinct from nuclear warfare, biological warfare and radiological warfare, which together make up CBRN defen ...
.


History

The
Swiss Swiss may refer to: * the adjectival form of Switzerland , french: Suisse(sse), it, svizzero/svizzera or , rm, Svizzer/Svizra , government_type = Federalism, Federal semi-direct democracy under an assembly-independent Directorial ...

Swiss
businessman
Henry Dunant Henry Dunant (born Jean-Henri Dunant; 8 May 182830 October 1910), also known as Henri Dunant, was a Swiss humanitarian, businessman and social activist. He was the visionary, promoter and co-founder and father of the Red Cross The Internati ...
went to visit wounded soldiers after the
Battle of Solferino The Battle of Solferino (referred to in Italy as the Battle of Solferino and San Martino) on 24 June 1859 resulted in the victory of the allied Second French Empire, French Army under Napoleon III of France, Napoleon III and Kingdom of Piedmont- ...
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 ''A Memory of Solferino'' (French: ''Un souvenir de Solférino'') is a book of the Swiss humanitarian Henry Dunant Henry Dunant (born Jean-Henri Dunant; 8 May 182830 October 1910), also known as Henri Dunant, was a Swiss humanitarian, busine ...
'', in 1862, on the horrors of war. His wartime experiences inspired Dunant to propose: * A permanent relief agency for
humanitarian aid Humanitarian aid is material and logistic assistance to people who need help. It is usually short-term help until the long-term help by the government and other institutions replaces it. Among the people in need are the homeless Home ...
in times of war * 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 International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international humanitarian Humanitarianism is an active belief in the value of human life, whereby human Humans (''Homo sapiens'') are the most populous and widespread specie ...

Red Cross
in
Geneva , neighboring_municipalities= Carouge Carouge () is a Municipalities of Switzerland, municipality in the Canton of Geneva, Switzerland. History Carouge is first mentioned in the Early Middle Ages as ''Quadruvium'' and ''Quatruvio''. In 124 ...

Geneva
. The latter led to the
1864 Geneva Convention 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 A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in internat ...

1864 Geneva Convention
, the first codified international treaty that covered the sick and wounded soldiers on the battlefield. On 22 August 1864, 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: * * * * * * * * * * * * For both of these accomplishments, Henry Dunant became corecipient of the first
Nobel Peace Prize The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prize The Nobel Prizes ( ; sv, Nobelpriset ; no, Nobelprisen ) are five separate prizes that, according to Alfred Nobel Alfred Bernhard Nobel ( , ; 21 October 1833 – 10 Decemb ...
in 1901. 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 were only ratified by the Netherlands and the United States of 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 , The Second Hague Conference in 1907 The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaties A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sov ...
and the tenth
Hague Convention of 1907 , The Second Hague Conference in 1907 The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaties A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in international law. It is usually entered into by sov ...
. 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 World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war engaged in by all or most of the principal nations of the world". The term is usually reserved for ...

World War I
had shown the deficiencies in the protection of
prisoners of war A prisoner of war (POW) is a non-combatant Non-combatant is a term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), co ...
under the
Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 File:Vredesconferentie Den Haag, Tweede 1907 - Second Peace Conference The Hague 1907.jpg, , The Second Hague Conference in 1907 The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaty, treaties and declarations negotiated at tw ...
. 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 World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
and the outrage towards the
war crimes A war crime is a violation of the laws of war The law of war is the component of international law that regulates the conditions for initiating war (''jus ad bellum'') and the conduct of warring parties (''jus in bello''). Laws of war d ...
disclosed by the
Nuremberg Trials #REDIRECT Nuremberg trials#REDIRECT Nuremberg trials#REDIRECT Nuremberg trials {{redirect category shell, {{R from other capitalisation{{R from move ... {{redirect category shell, {{R from other capitalisation{{R from move ...
{{redirect ...
, a series of conferences were held in 1949 reaffirming, expanding and updating the prior Geneva and Hague Conventions. It yielded four distinct conventions: *The First Geneva Convention "''for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field''" was the fourth update of the original 1864 convention and replaced the 1929 convention on the same subject matter. *The Second Geneva Convention "''for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea''" replaced the Hague Convention (X) of 1907. It was the first Geneva Convention on the protection of the victims of maritime warfare and mimicked the structure and provisions of the First Geneva Convention. *The Third Geneva Convention "''relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War''" replaced the 1929 Geneva Convention that dealt with prisoners of war. *In addition to these three conventions, the conference also added a new elaborate Fourth Geneva Convention "''relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War''". It was the first Geneva Convention not to deal with combatants, rather it had the protection of civilians as its subject matter. The 1899 and 1907 Hague Conventions had already contained some provisions on the protection of civilians and occupied territory. Article 154 specifically provides that the Fourth Geneva Convention is supplementary to these provisions in the Hague Conventions. Despite the length of these documents, they were found over time to be incomplete. In fact, the very nature of
armed conflicts War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violenc ...

armed conflicts
had changed with the beginning of the
Cold War The Cold War was a period of geopolitical Geopolitics (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...
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 File:Vredesconferentie Den Haag, Tweede 1907 - Second Peace Conference The Hague 1907.jpg, , The Second Hague Conference in 1907 The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaty, treaties and declarations negotiated at tw ...
. 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 signProtective signs are symbols to be used during an armed conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, ...
for medical services, the
Red Crystal in Geneva. The Red Crystal emblem has recently joined them. The emblems of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, under the Geneva Conventions, are to be placed on humanitarianism (international humanitarian law), humanitarian an ...
, as an alternative to the ubiquitous
Red Cross and Red Crescent The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is an international Humanitarianism, humanitarian movement with approximately 97 million Volunteering, volunteers, members and staff worldwide, which was founded to protect human life and hea ...

Red Cross and Red Crescent
emblems, for those countries that find them objectionable.


Commentaries

''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 Jean Simon Pictet (2 September 1914 – 30 March 2002) was a Swiss citizen, jurist, legal practitioner working in international humanitarian law International humanitarian law (IHL), also referred to as the laws of armed conflict, is the law that ...
who was the vice-president of the
International Committee of the Red Cross The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC; french: Comité international de la Croix-Rouge) is a humanitarian organization An aid agency, also known as development charity, is an organization dedicated to distributing aid In int ...
. The ''Commentaries'' are often relied upon to provide authoritative interpretation of the articles.


Contents

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
shipwreck A shipwreck is the wreckage of a ship A ship is a large watercraft Watercraft, also known as water vessels or waterborne vessels, are vehicles A vehicle (from la, vehiculum) is a machine A machine is any physical system ...

shipwreck
ed members of armed forces at sea,
prisoners of war A prisoner of war (POW) is a non-combatant Non-combatant is a term of art Jargon is the specialized terminology associated with a particular field or area of activity. Jargon is normally employed in a particular Context (language use), co ...
, 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.


Conventions

In international law, 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 Geneva Convention 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 A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreement between actors in internat ...
"''for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field''" (first adopted in 1864, revised in 1906,
1929 This year marked the end of a period known in American history as the Roaring Twenties The Roaring Twenties, sometimes stylized as the Roarin' 20s, refers to the decade of the 1920s in Western world, Western society and Western culture. ...
and finally 1949); * The
Second Geneva Convention 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 A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in inte ...
"''for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea''" (first adopted in 1949, successor of the Hague Convention (X) 1907); * The
Third Geneva Convention The Third Geneva Convention, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war A prisoner of war (POW) is a non-combatant—whether a military member, an irregular military fighter, or a civilian—who is held captive by a belligerent po ...
"''relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War''" (first adopted in
1929 This year marked the end of a period known in American history as the Roaring Twenties The Roaring Twenties, sometimes stylized as the Roarin' 20s, refers to the decade of the 1920s in Western world, Western society and Western culture. ...
, last revision in 1949); * The
Fourth Geneva Convention The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, more commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding writt ...
"''relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War''" (first adopted in 1949, based on parts of the Hague Convention (II) of 1899 and Hague Convention (IV) 1907). 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.


Protocols

The 1949 conventions have been modified with three amendment
protocols Protocol may refer to: Sociology and politics * Protocol (politics), a formal agreement between nation states * Protocol (diplomacy), the etiquette of diplomacy and affairs of state * Etiquette, a code of personal behavior Science and technology ...
: *
Protocol I Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions The Geneva Conventions are four , and three additional , that establish for humanitarian treatment in war. The singular term ''Geneva Convention'' usually denotes the ag ...
(1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts *
Protocol II 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 o ...
(1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts *
Protocol III Protocol III is a 2005 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions upright=1.15, Original document as PDF in single pages, 1864 The Geneva Conventions comprise four treaties A treaty is a formal legally binding written agreemen ...

Protocol III
(2005) relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem.


Application

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.


Common Article 2 relating to international armed conflicts

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. 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 In military A military, also known collectively as armed forces, is a heavily armed, highly organized force primarily intended for warfare War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, soc ...
. * The Conventions apply to a signatory nation even if the opposing nation is not a signatory, but only if the opposing nation "accepts and applies the provisions" of the Conventions. Article 1 of
Protocol I Protocol I is a 1977 amendment protocol to the Geneva Conventions The Geneva Conventions are four , and three additional , that establish for humanitarian treatment in war. The singular term ''Geneva Convention'' usually denotes the ag ...
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 relating to non-international armed conflict

This article states that the certain minimum
rules of war The law of war is the component of international law that regulates the conditions for initiating war (''jus ad bellum'') and the conduct of warring parties (''jus in bello''). Laws of war define sovereignty and nationhood, states and territo ...
apply to
armed conflicts War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violenc ...
"where at least one Party is not a State". The interpretation of the term ''
armed conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments, Society, societies, or paramilitary groups such as Mercenary, mercenaries, Insurgency, insurgents, and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence ...
'' 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 are 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 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 o ...
. The rationale for the limitation is to avoid conflict with the rights of
Sovereign State A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by some form of Institutionalisation, institutionalized social relation, social relatio ...
s that were not part of the treaties. When the provisions of this article apply, it states that:


Enforcement


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 A war crime is a violation of the laws of war The law of war is the component of international law that regulates the conditions for initiating war (''jus ad bellum'') and the conduct of warring parties (''jus in bello''). Laws of war d ...
. 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 inhumane treatment, including biological experiments * willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health * compelling a protected person to serve in the armed forces of a hostile power * willfully depriving a protected person of the
right to a fair trial A trial which is observed by a judge without being partial is a fair trial. Various rights associated with a fair trial are explicitly proclaimed in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights The Universal Declaration of Human ...
if accused of a war crime. 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 Military necessity, along with distinction, and proportionality, are three important principles of international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (po ...
and carried out unlawfully and wantonly * unlawful
deportation Deportation is the expulsion of a person or group of people from a place or country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective i ...
, transfer, or confinement.How "grave breaches" are defined in the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols
International Committee of the Red Cross.
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 Universal jurisdiction allows Sovereign state, states or international organizations to claim criminal jurisdiction over an accused person regardless of where the alleged crime was committed, and regardless of the accused's nationality, country of ...
also applies to the enforcement of grave breaches when the
United Nations Security Council The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization An intergovernmental organization (IGO) is an organization composed ...

United Nations Security Council
asserts its
authority In the fields of sociology Sociology is the study of society, human social behaviour, patterns of social relationships, social interaction, and culture that surrounds everyday life. It is a social science that uses various methods of Empiric ...

authority
and
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
from the
UN Charter The Charter of the United Nations (also known as the UN Charter) is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, an intergovernmental organization. It establishes the purposes, governing structure, and overall framework of the United Nations S ...
to apply universal jurisdiction. The
UNSC The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and international security, se ...
did this when they established the
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR; french: Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda; rw, Urukiko Mpanabyaha Mpuzamahanga Rwashyiriweho u Rwanda) was an international court established in November 1994 by the United Nation ...
and the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a body of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, secu ...
to investigate and/or prosecute alleged violations.


Right to a fair trial when no crime is alleged

Soldiers, as prisoners of war, will not receive a trial unless the allegation of a war crime has been made. According to article 43 of the 1949 Conventions, soldiers are employed for the purpose of serving in war; engaging in armed conflict is legitimate, and does not constitute a grave breach. Should a soldier be arrested by belligerent forces, they are to be considered "lawful combatants" and afforded the protectorate status of a prisoner of war (POW) until the cessation of the conflict. Human rights law applies to any incarcerated individual, including the right to a fair trial. Charges may only be brought against an enemy POW after a fair trial, but the initial crime being accused must be an explicit violation of the accords, more severe than simply fighting against the captor in battle. No trial will otherwise be afforded to a captured soldier, as deemed by human rights law. This element of the convention has been confused during past incidents of detainment of US soldiers by North Vietnam, where the regime attempted to try all imprisoned soldiers in court for committing grave breaches, on the incorrect assumption that their sole existence as enemies of the state violated international law.


Legacy

Although warfare has changed dramatically since the Geneva Conventions of 1949, they are still considered the cornerstone of contemporary
international humanitarian law #REDIRECT International humanitarian law International humanitarian law (IHL), also referred to as the laws of armed conflict, is the law that regulates the conduct of war ('' jus in bello''). It is a branch of international law International l ...
. They protect combatants who find themselves ''
hors de combat ''Hors de combat'' (; ) is a French term used in diplomacy Diplomacy is the practice of influencing the decisions and conduct of foreign governments or organizations through dialogue, negotiation, and other nonviolent means. Diplomacy usually ...
,'' 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 War in Afghanistan, Afghan war, or Afghan civil war may refer to: * Conquest of Afghanistan by Alexander the Great (330 BC – 327 BC) *Muslim conquests of Afghanistan The Muslim conquests of Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari languag ...
, the
2003 invasion of Iraq The 2003 invasion of Iraq was the first stage of the Iraq War The Iraq WarThe conflict is also known as the Second Gulf War or the Third Gulf War by those who consider the Iran–Iraq War the first Gulf War. The war was also called the ...
, the invasion of Chechnya (1994–present), and the
Russo-Georgian War The Russo-Georgian WarThe war is known by a variety of other names, including Five-Day War, August War and Russian invasion of Georgia. was a war between Georgia (country), Georgia, Russia and the Russian-backed self-proclaimed republics of ...
. The Geneva Conventions also protect those affected by non-international armed conflicts such as the
Syrian Civil War#REDIRECT Syrian civil war The Syrian civil war ( ar, الْحَرْبُ الْأَهْلِيَّةُ السُّورِيَّةُ, ''al-ḥarb al-ʾahlīyah as-sūrīyah'') is an ongoing multi-sided civil war in Syria fought between the Syrian Ara ...

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 The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
, an HCP often is faced with a non-state actor, as argued by General
Wesley Clark Wesley Kanne Clark, Sr. (born December 23, 1944) is a retired general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air forces, space forces, or marines Marines or naval infantry, are typically a ...
in 2007. Examples of such conflict include the
Sri Lankan Civil War The Sri Lankan Civil War ( si, ශ්‍රී ලංකාවේ සිවිල් යුද්ධය; ta, இலங்கை உள்நாட்டுப் போர், Ilaṅkai uḷnāṭṭup pōr) was a civil war fought in Sr ...
, the Sudanese Civil War, and the
Colombian Armed Conflict The Colombian conflict ( es, link=no, Conflicto armado interno de Colombia) began on May 27, 1964, and is a low-intensity asymmetric war between the government of Colombia, far-right paramilitary groups, crime syndicates, and far-left gue ...
, 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). These set out minimum legal standards that must be followed for internal conflicts. International tribunals, particularly the
International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was a body of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization aiming to maintain international peace and international security, secu ...
(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. Further, those provisions are considered
customary international law Customary international law is an aspect of international law International law, also known as public international law and law of nations, is the set of rules, norms, and standards generally recognized as binding between nation A nation is a ...
. Controversy has arisen over the US designation of irregular opponents as "unlawful
enemy combatants Enemy combatant is a person who, either lawfully or unlawfully, engages in hostilities for the other side in an armed conflict. Usually enemy combatants are members of the armed forces of the state with which another state is at war. In the case o ...
" (see also
unlawful combatant An unlawful combatant, illegal combatant or unprivileged combatant/belligerent is, according to United States law, a person who directly engages in armed conflict War is an intense armed conflict between State (polity), states, governments ...
), especially in the
SCOTUS Scotus or SCOTUS may refer to: * Supreme Court of the United States The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of America (U.S. ...

SCOTUS
judgments over the brig facility ''
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld ''Hamdi v. Rumsfeld'', 542 U.S. 507 (2004), is a United States Supreme Court The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is the highest court in the federal judiciary of the United States of America The United States of America ...
'', '' Hamdan v. Rumsfeld'' and '' Rasul v. Bush'', and later '' Boumediene v. Bush''. President
George W. Bush George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the head of state and head of government of the Un ...

George W. Bush
, aided by Attorneys-General
John Ashcroft John David Ashcroft (born May 9, 1942) is an American lawyer, , songwriter and former politician who served as the 79th (2001–2005), in the . He later founded The Ashcroft Group, a Washington D.C. lobbying firm. Ashcroft previously served as ...

John Ashcroft
and
Alberto Gonzales Alberto R. Gonzales (born August 4, 1955) is an American lawyer who served as the 80th United States Attorney General, appointed in February 2005 by President George W. Bush, becoming the highest-ranking Hispanic American in Executive (govern ...
and General
Keith B. Alexander Keith Brian Alexander (born December 2, 1951) is a retired four-star general of the United States Army The United States Army (USA) is the land military branch, service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the eight Uniform ...
, 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
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, the
Taliban The Taliban (; ps, طالبان, ṭālibān, lit=students or 'seekers'), which refers to itself as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Taliban Islamic Movement and/or Islamic Movement of Taliban is a Deobandi Deobandi ( hi, देव ...

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, 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.presidency.ucsb.edu: "Press Briefing by White House Counsel Judge Alberto Gonzales, DoD General Counsel William Haynes, DoD Deputy General Counsel Daniel Dell'Orto and Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence General Keith Alexander June 22, 2004"
consulted July 2014
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
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under 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 POWs captured in this circumstance remains a question. Educational institutions and organizations including
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International Committee of the Red Cross The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC; french: Comité international de la Croix-Rouge) is a humanitarian organization An aid agency, also known as development charity, is an organization dedicated to distributing aid In int ...
, and the
Rohr Jewish Learning Institute The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) is an initiative of the orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch Chabad, also known as Lubavitch, Habad and Chabad-Lubavitch (), is an Orthodox Judaism, Orthodox Jewish List of Hasidic dynasties, Hasidic dynasty. Chab ...
use the Geneva Convention as a primary text investigating torture and warfare.


New challenges

Artificial intelligence and autonomous weapon systems, such as military robots and cyber-weapons, are creating challenges in the creation, interpretation and application of the laws of armed conflict. The complexity of these new challenges, as well as the speed in which they are developed, complicates the application of the Conventions, which have not been updated in a long time. Adding to this challenge is the very slow speed of the process of developing new treaties to deal with new forms of warfare, and determining agreed-upon interpretations to existing ones, meaning that by the time a decision can be made, armed conflict may have already evolved in a way that makes the changes obsolete.


See also


Notes


Further reading

* Matthew Evangelista and Nina Tannenwald (eds.). 2017.
Do the Geneva Conventions Matter?
' Oxford University Press. * Giovanni Mantilla, " Conforming Instrumentalists: Why the USA and the United Kingdom Joined the 1949 Geneva Conventions," European Journal of International Law, Volume 28, Issue 2, May 2017, Pages 483–511. * Helen Kinsella,
The image before the weapon : a critical history of the distinction between combatant and civilian
Cornell University Press.


References


External links


Texts and commentaries of 1949 Conventions & Additional Protocols

The Geneva Conventions: the core of international humanitarian law
ICRC

video * Commentaries: *
GCI: Commentary
*
GCII: Commentary
*
GCIII: Commentary
*
GCIV: Commentary
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