The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 are the core of international humanitarian law. The Geneva Conventions were adopted to limit the human suffering in times of armed conflict.
The four Geneva Conventions
The first one was adopted in 1864 giving protection to wounded and sick soldiers in times of armed conflict on land. The second convention gives protection to wounded, sick, and shipwrecked in armed conflict at sea. After the atrocities committed against prisoners during the First World War, the international community adopted the third Geneva Convention in 1929 to give protection to the treatment of prisoners of war (POW). In 1949 the first three were revised and a fourth was adopted to give protection to civilians and populations living under occupation, based on the experiences of the Second World War.
Article 3 common to the Geneva Conventions
Common article 3 is a mini convention in itself; it gives the fundamental guarantees of international humanitarian law (IHL). Article 3 stipulates that all those who do not take part in the hostilities shall, in all circumstances, be treated humanely and impartially. Wounded and sick have the right to medical care.
The First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions
The First Additional Protocol from 1977 extends the protection of civilians, and also includes rules on the conduct of hostilities which defines what weapons and methods can be used. It generally applies in international armed conflicts and is obligatory on the states that have signed and ratified it. However, article 75 which sets out the minimum guarantees granted to all persons in the power of a party to the conflict reflects international customary law which is binding on all states, regardless of any signatories
The Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions
The Second Additional Protocol expands the scope of article 3, common to the four Geneva Conventions, and gives additional protection in internal armed conflicts. It generally applies in internal armed conflicts and is also binding only on states that have signed and ratified it. Some articles are also regarded as international customary law, for example, article 7 which relates to protection of medical and religious persons.
The Hague Law
The Hague Conventions are a set of conventions adopted at the Peace Conference held in the Hague, Netherlands in 1907. The Conventions represent the long-time, commonly accepted rules of engagement – the means and methods of warfare. These are binding on all states as international customary law.
The regulations annexed to the IV Hague Convention – Hague Regulations – include important parts of the law of occupation.
The four Geneva Conventions from 1949 constitute the core of international humanitarian law. The Geneva Conventions were adopted to limit the human suffering in times of armed conflict.