Geneva Overview - Fact Sheet Summary of the Geneva...

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Protecting the Victims of War International humanitarian law (IHL) is the branch of international law that encompasses both humanitari- an principles and international treaties that seek to save lives and alleviate suffering of both combatants and noncombatants during armed conflicts. IHL’s principal legal documents are the Geneva Conventions of 1949 — four international treaties that, as of August 2006, have been universally adopted by all 194 nations in the world. These Conventions provide specific rules to safeguard combatants (mem- bers of the armed forces) who are wounded, sick, or shipwrecked; prisoners of war; and civilians; as well as medical personnel, military chaplains, and civilian support workers of the military. The Additional Protocols, which supplement the Geneva Conventions, further expand these humanitarian rules. International humanitarian law is founded on the principles of humanity, impartiality, and neutrality. Its roots extend to such historic concepts of justice as Babylon’s Hammurabic Code, the Code of Justinian from the Byzantine Empire, and the Lieber Code used during the United States Civil War. The development of modern international humani- tarian law can be credited to the efforts of a 19th Century Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant. In 1859, he witnessed the aftermath of a bloody battle among French and Austrian armies in Solferino, Italy. The departing armies left a battlefield littered with wounded and dying men. Despite Dunant’s valiant efforts to mobilize aid for the soldiers, thousands died. In A Memory of Solferino , his book about the expe- rience, Dunant proposed that volunteer relief groups be granted protection during war in order to care for the wounded. A group known as the Committee of Five (later to become the International Committee of the Red Cross) formed in Geneva in 1863 to act on Dunant’s suggestions. Several months later, diplomats from 16 nations, assisted by representa- tives of military medical services and humanitarian societies, negotiated a convention (treaty) containing 10 articles specifying that— Ambulances, military hospitals, and the personnel serving with them are to be recognized as neutral and protected during conflict. Citizens who assist the wounded are to be protected. Wounded or sick combatants are to be collected and cared for by either side in a conflict. The symbol of a red cross on a white background (the reverse of the Swiss flag in honor of the origin of this initiative) will serve as a protective emblem to identify medical personnel, equipment, and facilities. Known as the Geneva Convention, this agreement became the foundation of modern international humanitarian law, which now encompasses four con- ventions and two additional protocols. Collectively, they represent the world community’s modern efforts to protect people in times of armed conflict. The Geneva Conventions of 1949
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Geneva Overview - Fact Sheet Summary of the Geneva...

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