Geneva Conventions

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The Geneva Conventions are a set of four treaties of international law. 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.

Some parts of the four Geneva Conventions say that all states who signed must create national laws to make violations of the Geneva Conventions a crime.

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 all injured, not just those of the same party.
  • 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 and so they do 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 Convention:

  • 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 in 1949. Those versions are related to previous revisions. In some cases, ideas from the 1907 Hague Conventions 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 forbids certain methods of warfare. They have also spoken about issues of civil wars. Nearly all 200 countries of the world are "signatory" nations, in that they have signed and ratified these conventions.

Clara Barton was important in campaigning for the agreement of the First Geneva Convention by the United States; the U.S. signed in 1882. By the Fourth Geneva Convention some 47 nations had ratified the agreements.

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