Geneva Conventions 1949 and additional protocols

 Geneva Conventions 1949 and additional protocols

Geneva Conventions
 Geneva Conventions 1949 and additional protocols


The Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols include international treaties that contain the most important rules for reducing the barbarity of war. The agreements provide protection for persons who do not participate in hostilities (civilians, health workers, aid workers) and those who have stopped participating in hostilities (wounded, sick, sunken ship soldiers, prisoners of war).


The Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols are at the heart of international humanitarian law, the backbone of international law that regulates conduct during armed conflicts and seeks to limit their effects.


The agreements specifically protect persons who do not participate in hostilities (civilians, health workers, aid workers) and those who have stopped participating in hostilities such as the wounded, the sick, surviving soldiers of sunken ships, and prisoners of war.


Conventions and protocols call for action to prevent or end all violations, and include strict rules to address so-called "serious violations", as those responsible for "serious violations" must be sought and brought to justice, regardless of their nationality.


Geneva Conventions 1949

 The First Geneva Convention protects the wounded, soldiers, and sick in the ground war.


This convention represents the fourth revised version of the Geneva Convention on Wound and Patients and traces the conventions adopted in 1864, 1906, and 1929 and contains 64 articles. These agreements include not only the protection of the wounded and the sick, but also health personnel, religious units, medical units, and medical transportation. The convention also recognizes distinctive badges, and includes two annexes, including a draft agreement on hospital areas, and a model card for health and religion staff.


This convention replaced the 1907 Hague Convention in accordance with the principles of the Geneva Convention for its application in the event of maritime war. The Convention is very similar to the provisions of the First Geneva Convention in structure and content. It contains 63 substances that apply specifically to naval warfare where protection is provided, for example, for hospital vessels. The agreement contains an annex containing a card form 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, while the 1929 Convention was limited to only 97 articles. The categories of persons entitled to prisoner-of-war status have been expanded in accordance with the first and second conventions. A more precise definition of the conditions and place of detention, particularly with regard to the work of prisoners of war, their financial resources, the subsidies they receive, and the judicial proceedings against them have been formulated. The convention also includes five supplements that include different model regulations, identification cards and other cards.


The Fourth Geneva Convention provides protection for civilians, including the occupied territories. 


The Geneva Conventions, adopted before 1949, were focused solely on combatants, not civilians. The events of the Second World War demonstrated the dire consequences of the absence of a wartime convention for the protection of civilians. Thus, the Convention adopted in 1949 took into account the experiences of world war II. The Convention contains 159 articles, including a short article on the protection of civilians in general from the consequences of war, but did not address the issue of hostilities per se until they were reviewed in the additional protocols of 1977. Most articles of the Convention address the issues of the status and treatment of protected persons, and the status of foreigners in the territory of one party to the conflict distinguishes from that of civilians in the occupied territory. The articles of the Convention also clarify the occupation force's obligations to the civilian population and contains detailed provisions on humanitarian relief in the occupied territory. It also includes a specific system for the treatment of civilian detainees, three annexes that include a model convention on hospitals and safe areas, model regulations on humanitarian relief, and model cards. 


Common Article 3


The Geneva Conventions, adopted before 1949, were focused solely on combatants, not civilians. The events of the Second World War demonstrated the dire consequences of the absence of a wartime convention for the protection of civilians. Thus, the Convention adopted in 1949 took into account the experiences of world war II. The Convention contains 159 articles, including a short article on the protection of civilians in general from the consequences of war, but did not address the issue of hostilities per se until they were reviewed in the additional protocols of 1977. Most articles of the Convention address the issues of the status and treatment of protected persons, and the status of foreigners in the territory of one party to the conflict distinguishes from that of civilians in the occupied territory. The articles of the Convention also clarify the occupation force's obligations to the civilian population and contains detailed provisions on humanitarian relief in the occupied territory. It also includes a specific system for the treatment of civilian detainees, three annexes that include a model convention on hospitals and safe areas, model regulations on humanitarian relief, and model cards. 

  Article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions, has been advanced, covering for the first time cases of non-international armed conflict. These types of conflicts vary greatly, including traditional civil wars, internal armed conflicts that seep into other states or internal conflicts involving third states or multinational forces alongside the government. Joint Article 3 provides for basic rules that may not be excluded from any of its provisions, as it can be regarded as a mini-convention within the conventions that incorporate the basic rules of the Geneva Conventions in an intensive form, and apply to non-international disputes:


It demands humane treatment of all persons detained by the enemy and not to discriminate against them or harm them and specifically prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, hostage-taking and unfair trial.

It requires the collection and care of the wounded, the sick and the survivors of the sunken ships.

The ICRC grants the right to provide its services to the parties to the conflict.

The parties to the conflict call for all or some of the Geneva Conventions to be put into effect through so-called "special agreements".

Recognizes that the application of these rules does not affect the legal status of the parties to the dispute.


Since most armed conflicts are currently non-international, the application of common Article 3 is crucial and requires full respect. 


Areas of application of the Geneva Conventions

States parties to the Geneva Conventions

The Geneva Conventions came into force on October 21, 1950, and continued to be ratified for decades: 74 countries ratified the conventions in the 1950s, 48 in the 1960s, 20 countries signed conventions in the 1970s, and 20 others in the 1980s. In the 1990s, 26 countries ratified the agreements, mostly in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and the former Yugoslavia. After seven new ratifications since 2000, the number of Member States has reached 194, making the Geneva Conventions the most applicable conventions in the world.


Additional protocols for the Geneva Conventions

In the two decades following the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, the world witnessed an increase in the number of non-international armed conflicts and wars of national liberation. In response, two additional protocols for the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 were adopted in 1977. The protocols strengthen protection for victims of international (Protocol I) and non-international (Protocol II) and impose restrictions on the way wars are fought. The second protocol was the first international treaty fully devoted to cases of non-international armed conflict.


In 2005, a third additional protocol was adopted to create an additional emblem, namely the red crystal, which has the same international status as the Red Cross and Red Crescent badges.