The Genenva Conventions and their commentarie

The Geneva Conventions and their commentaries

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are international treaties that contain the most important rules limiting the barbarity of war. They protect people who do not take part in the fighting (civilians, medics, aid workers) and those who can no longer fight (wounded, sick and shipwrecked troops, prisoners of war).

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols are at the core of international humanitarian law, the body of international law that regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects. They specifically protect people who are not taking part in the hostilities (civilians, health workers and aid workers) and those who are no longer participating in the hostilities, such as wounded, sick and shipwrecked soldiers and prisoners of war. The Conventions and their Protocols call for measures to be taken to prevent or put an end to all breaches. They contain stringent rules to deal with what are known as "grave breaches". Those responsible for grave breaches must be sought, tried or extradited, whatever nationality they may hold.

  1. The First Geneva Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during war. See the full text here.
  2. The Second Geneva Convention protects wounded, sick and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during war. See the full text here.
  3. The Third Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war. See the full text here.
  4. The Fourth Geneva Convention protects civilians, including those in occupied territory. See the full text here.

Common Article 3 covers situations of non-international armed conflicts. It requires humane treatment for all persons in enemy hands, without any adverse distinction. It specifically prohibits murder, mutilation, torture, cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment, the taking of hostages and unfair trial. It requires that the wounded, sick and shipwrecked be collected and cared for.It grants the ICRC the right to offer its services to the parties to the conflict.It calls on the parties to the conflict to bring all or parts of the Geneva Conventions into force through so-called special agreements.It recognizes that the application of these rules does not affect the legal status of the parties to the conflict.Given that most armed conflicts today are non-international, applying Common Article 3 is of the utmost importance. Its full respect is required.

When do the Geneva Conventions apply? The Geneva Conventions have been ratified by all States and are universally applicable.

See more at The Geneva Conventions and their Commentaries (

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