An insight into the Geneva Conventions

An Insight into the Geneva Conventions

The most important international humanitarian code and conventions



The Geneva convention is a diplomatic and legal landmark, the document which withholds a high regard in terms of a country’s humanitarian standards and activities.

This document holds a particularly important position in resolving disputes in an international platform for dialogue, most notably, in the United Nations. The Geneva convention has paved the way for many peace resolutions and compromises between many nations. Coming into existence at a pivotal time it helped gain many prisoners of war, freshly captured from enemy lines during World War Two, a reasonable standard of living in prisons and to many, immunity, and freedom as well.

From then on, this document is seen as a bookmark for the humanitarian requirements that countries need to adhere to irrespective of them being domestic citizens or foreign ones. The Geneva convention’s documents dictate the minimum a government should do and respect with regards to its people.

More than 190 states follow the Geneva Conventions due to the conviction that some combat zone practices are so egregious and harming, they hurt the whole global network. The guidelines help draw a line—as much as is conceivable inside the setting of wars and outfitted clashes—between the others conscious treatment of military, clinical staff and regular folks and over the top fierceness against them.


In 1906, the Swiss government arranged a conference of 35 states to review and update improvements to the First Geneva Convention.

The new updates stated all prisoners must be treated with compassion and live in humane conditions. It also laid out rules for the daily lives of prisoners and established the International Red Cross as the main neutral organization responsible for collecting and transmitting data about prisoners of war and the wounded or killed.

Germany signed the Convention of 1929, however, that did not prevent them from carrying out horrific acts on and off the battlefield and within their military prison camps and civilian concentration camps during World War II. As a result, the Geneva Conventions were expanded in 1949 to protect non-combatant civilians.

Article 9 of the Convention indicated the Red Cross has the option to help the injured and wiped out and give humanitarian aid. Article 12 specified the injured and debilitated must not be killed, tormented, annihilated, or presented to organic examinations.

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 likewise spread out guidelines for ensuring injured, wiped out or wrecked military adrift or on clinic transports just as clinical specialists and regular citizens going with or rewarding military faculty.

In 2005, a Protocol was created to recognize the symbol of the red crystal—in addition to the red cross, the red crescent, and the red shield of David—as universal emblems of identification and protection in armed conflicts.

Importance and relevance

The world has changed over the past 7 decades, communication has become easier, transportation has become faster and safer, information can be stored and shared in one’s pocket, the list goes on. But what has also remained is that there is no full international peace. Tensions between one or two nations remain and with that the world remains on the brink of another war, only this time due to innovation, the weapons have become even deadlier.

Contempt breeds contempt, and this increasing tendency to flout the law prompts others to do the same – even those we do not typically regard as rogue states. In 2018 the US, UK and France bombed Syrian chemical weapons facilities without any legal authority, and the illegality of the attack went virtually unnoticed by world leaders. In June this year, the US reportedly came within minutes of attacking Iran in response to the shooting down of a US drone – it was aborted, but the question of whether it would have been legal didn’t feature.

And this reflects another trend, and that is the movement we are seeing around the world away from multilateralism.

The Geneva Conventions only apply to international armed conflicts, except for Article 3 common to all four Conventions, which also covers non-international armed conflicts. The adoption of this article in 1949 was a breakthrough since previous IHL treaties had only covered situations of wars between States. As most of today’s wars are classified as non-international armed conflicts, Article 3 remains vitally important in current contexts because it sets a baseline for the protection of people who are not or no longer fighting (example- civilians, detainees, the wounded), to which all sides – State and non-State parties to conflict – must abide.

Remarkably, the Conventions have been universally ratified, meaning every single State in the world is party to them.

Need for the conventions

The need for the conventions is growing every day. There are many instances which could point towards the importance that these conventions hold for the efforts of peacekeeping and prevention of war.

The appointment of Boris Johnson, Trump, Brexit, the accomplishment of patriot parties in various pieces of the world and the withdrawal of states from significant worldwide understandings – all highlight a general eschewal of a directed global request, wherein countries participate for everyone’s benefit, for an anarchic out of control situation in which countries do however they see fit.

This move has enormous ramifications for worldwide law, since confidence in the estimation of multilateralism and eagerness to keep global guidelines go connected at the hip. A confidence in the power of national interests sits clumsily with the thought that states should cooperate to guarantee that regular people are secured in wars all over.


Artificial reasoning and self-governing weapon frameworks, for example, military robots and digital weapons, are making difficulties in the creation, translation and use of the laws of equipped clash. The multifaceted nature of these new difficulties, just as the speed in which they are created, confounds the utilization of the Conventions, which have not been refreshed in quite a while. Adding to this test is the exceptionally moderate speed of the way toward growing new arrangements to manage new types of fighting, and deciding settled upon understandings to existing ones, implying that when a choice can be made, outfitted clash may have just developed such that rolls out the improvements out of date.

In the preamble to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, contracting states certified their “sincere wish to see harmony win among people groups”. They certified the significance of ensuring casualties of contention, and of the Conventions being applied in all conditions to all individuals. On the event of the 70th commemoration, with harmony delighted in by less individuals than in 1949, casualties less secured and a political development that appears to have overlooked the significance of the standard of law out and out, it’s a higher priority than any time in recent memory to guarantee these excellent responsibilities by the Convention signatories are not overlooked.

Author: Tarun S,
IFIM law School, 2nd Year

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