As I wrote in my introduction, I am not at all familiar with what the Geneva Conventions are. So if you’re like me and you’ve decided its time to find out, here’s some info below. The USA signed the Geneva Conventions on December 8, 1949. - DG


The Geneva Conventions: the core of international humanitarian law

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are at the core of international humanitarian law, the body of international law that regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects.

They specifically protect people who are not taking part in the hostilities (civilians, health workers and aid workers) and those who are no longer participating in the hostilities, such as wounded, sick and shipwrecked soldiers and prisoners of war.

The Conventions and their Protocols call for measures to be taken to prevent or put an end to all breaches. They contain stringent rules to deal with what are known as "grave breaches". Those responsible for grave breaches must be sought, tried or extradited, whatever nationality they may hold.


The 1949 Geneva Conventions

The first Geneva Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during war.

This Convention represents the fourth updated version of the Geneva Convention on the wounded and sick following those adopted in 1864, 1906 and 1929. It contains 64 articles. These provide protection for the wounded and sick, but also for medical and religious personnel, medical units and medical transports. The Convention also recognizes the distinctive emblems. It has two annexes containing a draft agreement relating to hospital zones and a model identity card for medical and religious personnel.


The second Geneva Convention protects wounded, sick and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during war.

This Convention replaced Hague Convention of 1907 for the Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention. It closely follows the provisions of the first Geneva Convention in structure and content. It has 63 articles specifically applicable to war at sea. For example, it protects hospital ships. It has one annex containing a model identity card for medical and religious personnel.


The third Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war.

This Convention replaced the Prisoners of War Convention of 1929. It contains 143 articles whereas the 1929 Convention had only 97. The categories of persons entitled to prisoner of war status were broadened in accordance with Conventions I and II. The conditions and places of captivity were more precisely defined, particularly with regard to the labour of prisoners of war, their financial resources, the relief they receive, and the judicial proceedings instituted against them. The Convention establishes the principle that prisoners of war shall be released and repatriated without delay after the cessation of active hostilities. The Convention has five annexes containing various model regulations and identity and other cards.


The fourth Geneva Convention affords protection to civilians, including in occupied territory.

The Geneva Conventions, which were adopted before 1949. were concerned with combatants only, not with civilians. The events of World War II showed the disastrous consequences of the absence of a convention for the protection of civilians in wartime. The Convention adopted in 1949 takes account of the experiences of World War II. It is composed of 159 articles. It contains a short section concerning the general protection of populations against certain consequences of war, without addressing the conduct of hostilities, as such, which was later examined in the Additional Protocols of 1977. The bulk of the Convention deals with the status and treatment of protected persons, distinguishing between the situation of foreigners on the territory of one of the parties to the conflict and that of civilians in occupied territory. It spells out the obligations of the Occupying Power vis-à-vis the civilian population and contains detailed provisions on humanitarian relief for populations in occupied territory. It also contains a specific regime for the treatment of civilian internees. It has three annexes containing a model agreement on hospital and safety zones, model regulations on humanitarian relief and model cards.

Read more.

Here is a link to the Geneva Convention signatories.

Tags: USA, american history, geneva conventions, history, humanitarian relief, treaty, warfare, world history

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Replies to This Discussion

An important thing to keep in mind is that the Geneva Conventions apply only in time of war. This means if war has not been declared they are not necessarily in effect, IE Vietnam. However, they are our guidelines for conflicts that uniformed soldiers participate in. There is a manual for the army FM 27-10 "the law of land warfare" which includes the Geneva and Hague Conventions. This pretty much the standard applied by the US Army in time of war (declared and undeclared). Since many nations have not signed the conventions, unfortunately, they are not always followed.
An important thing to keep in mind is that the Geneva Conventions apply only in time of war.

I did not know that. Thanks for the clarification.
It's important to note that the concept of war itself is left open to interpretation. Like in Sudan: "No, it's not a civil war, we're just quelling civil unrest."
Absolutely Jaume, I should have been much more specific. When I say time of war, I mean an actual declared war, such as WWI and WWII. To my understanding both Korea and Vietnam were never officially wars in that sense. Perhaps that whole concept would make an excellent separate topic?
I think so. For a while, I thought about starting a thread on the Quasi-War (I just like this name and all its implications), but I really don't know much about it except what you can find in the Wikipedia.

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