What are the Geneva Conventions guidelines during wartime?

What is the News?

As the Russian-Ukraine Conflict gets intense, there is growing concern surrounding the issue of violations of human rights and Geneva Conventions.

What are Geneva Conventions?

The Geneva Conventions(1949) and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war.

The convention codifies widely accepted ethical and legal international standards for humanitarian treatment of those impacted by any ongoing war. 

The focus of the Conventions is also on the treatment of non-combatants and prisoners of war, and not the use of conventional or biological and chemical weapons.

Treaties under the Convention: The convention contains four treaties, formalized in 1949 and three additional protocols, the first two of which were formalized in 1977 and the third in 2005.

Four treaties 

– The first Geneva Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during the war.

– The second Geneva Convention protects wounded, sick and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during the war.

– The third Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war.

– The fourth Geneva Convention affords protection to civilians, including in occupied territory.

Note: Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions cover situations of non-international armed conflicts. They include traditional civil wars, internal armed conflicts that spill over into other States, or internal conflicts in which a third State or a multinational force intervenes alongside the government.

Parties to the Convention

The Geneva Conventions have been ratified by 196 states, including all UN member states. The three Protocols have been ratified by 174, 169 and 79 states respectively.

Potential Prosecution under the Convention:

Under Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), it is the ICC that has jurisdiction in respect of war crimes. War Crimes’ refers to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions including wilful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments among others.

Note: International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC) is a humanitarian organization based in Geneva, Switzerland. State parties (signatories) to the Geneva Convention of 1949 and its Additional Protocols have given the ICRC a mandate to protect victims of international and internal armed conflicts.

Source: This post is based on the article What are the Geneva Conventions guidelines during wartime? published in The Hindu on 14th Mar 2022.

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