history of humanitarian law
essential rules of international humanitarian law
relation with other international humanitarian law
the middle of the 19th century all of the treaties concerning
war victims' protection were circumstantial and binding only for
the signing parties. These agreements were purely military-designed,
based on strictly binding mutual obligations; and they were in force
only during specific armed conflict.
1864 Geneva Convention laid the foundations for the contemporary
humanitarian law. It was in a whole characterized by:
written rules of universal scope to protect the victims of conflicts;
- its multilateral
nature, open to all States; the obligation to extend care without
discrimination to wounded and sick military personnel;
- respect for
and marking of medical personnel, transports and equipment using
an emblem (red cross on a white background).
creation of the modern humanitarian law was strongly tied with the
International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, changing the
matter of things. It was a big step towards humanity. Since then
countries are bound by multilateral treaty, which is in force forever
and on every occasion.
history of humanitarian law
It all began in June 1859, when a merchant named
Henry Dunant was traveling through the war-ravaged plain of Normandia,
north of Italia, after the battle of Solferino. Seeing thousands
of wounded soldiers left dying in the mercy of fate, he appealed
to the local inhabitants to come and help, insisting that combatants
from both sides should be taken care of. There and then it crossed
the Dunant's mind an idea about the creation of the Red Cross;.
so he decided to tell the world about experienced horrors of war
and wrote a book "A memory of Solferino", let it be mentioned
here that with this work he initiated the news reports' epoch.
In his book, published in 1862, he made two solemn appeals; firstly,
for relief societies to be formed in the peacetime with nurses who
would be ready to care for the wounded in wartime. Secondly, for
these volunteers, who would be called upon to assist the military
medical services, to be recognized and protected through an international
agreement. These ideas soon materialized in the creation
of the "International Committee for Relief to the Wounded",
which later became the International Committee of the Red Cross.
response to an invitation from the International Committee, representatives
from sixteen countries and four philanthropic institutions gathered
at an International Conference in Geneva in 1863. This event marked
the founding of the Red Cross as an institution. But this was only
the first step. Henry Dunant and the other members of the Committee
wanted official and international recognition of the Red Cross and
its ideals. They wanted a Convention to be adopted which would ensure
the protection of medical services on the battlefield.
this end the Swiss government agreed to convene a Diplomatic Conference
which was held in Geneva in 1864. Representatives of twelve governments
took part and adopted a treaty prepared by the International Committee
and entitled the "Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of
the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field". This
agreement, with its ten articles, was the first treaty of international
humanitarian law. Subsequently, further conferences were held, extending
the basic law to other categories of victims, such as prisoners
of war. In 1899 in the Hague it was signed the next Convention,
adjusting Geneva Convention's principles to the war-action at sea.
In 1906, the ten articles of the First Convention were improved
and complemented. And in 1907 under the terms of this Convention,.
In the Hague it were determined all combatants' categories who had
the war-prisoner's status when detained as well as the right for
the adequate treatment during their captivity. In 1929, these Conventions
were developed further and affirmed one more time.
the aftermath of the Second World War, a Diplomatic Conference deliberated
for four months before adopting the four Geneva Conventions of 1949,
which for the first time included provisions for the protection
of civilians in wartime. In 1977, the Conventions were supplemented
by two Additional Protocols.
First Geneva Convention, signed in 1864, was the first treaty of
international humanitarian law. In 1899 in the Hague it was signed
the next convention, applying the Geneva convention to war action
in 1907 The Hague Convention determined combatants' categories.
In 1929 these conventions were developed further and expanded one
more time. In 1949 during the international conference it was adopted
Geneva convention "Civil persons' protection during the war-time"
as well transcribed three previous adapted conventions and submitted
their texts. The Geneva convention from 1949 and additional Protocols
in toto nearly 600 paragraphs is law achievement with a historical
essential rules of international humanitarian law
who do not or can no longer take part in the hostilities are entitled
to respect for their life and for their physical and mental integrity.
Such persons must in all circumstances be protected and treated
with humanity, without any unfavorable distinction whatever.
is forbidden to kill or wound an adversary who surrenders or who
can no longer take part in the fighting.
wounded and sick must be collected and cared for by the party to
the conflict which has them in its power. Medical personnel and
medical establishments, transports and equipment must be spared.
The red cross or red crescent on a white background is the sign
protecting such persons and objects and must be respected.
combatants and civilians who find themselves under the authority
of the adverse party are entitled to respect for their life, their
dignity, their personal rights and their political, religious and
other convictions. They must be protected against all acts of violence
or reprisal. They are entitled to exchange news with their families
and receive aid.
must enjoy basic judicial guarantees and no one may be held responsible
for an act he has not committed. No one may be subjected to physical
or mental torture or to cruel or degrading corporal punishment or
the parties to the conflict nor members of their armed forces have
an unlimited rights to choose methods and means of warfare. It is
forbidden to use weapons or methods of warfare that are likely to
cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering.
parties to a conflict must at all times distinguish between the
civilian population and combatants in order to spare the civilian
population and civilian property. Neither the civilian population
as whole nor individual civilians may be attacked. Attacks may be
made solely against military objectives.
basic principles of Geneva conventions are reposing on the respect
of the human being and are respecting its dignity.
who do not take direct part in hostilities as well as individuals,
can not take part in these actions due illness, wound, captivity
or other reasons, are entitled to be respected and protected against
conflicting sides' military operations' consequences without any
unfavorable distinction whatever.
protocols are extending action field, concerning it to any individual,
involved in a military conflict. Moreover, these protocols oblige
warring sides and combatants not to attack civilians and civil objects
as well oblige to guarantee the providing of military operations
in compliance with the generally accepted humanitarian law
conventions, accepted on August the 12th, 1949
protection provided by the Conventions applies to the following
categories of persons:
- wounded and sick members of the armed forces in the field;
The Second Convention - wounded,
sick, and shipwrecked members of the armed forces at sea as well
as shipwreck victims;
The Third Convention - prisoners
of the war;
- civilians in times of war.
ICRC, being the initiator and the guardian of international humanitarian
law, is responsible for its development in order to be in step with
warfare changes. The law are formed in a consecutive stages, as
well providing the revision of existing documents whenever the Committee
considers it as a necessary measure. Committee's legal experts organize
and participate in meetings and conferences aimed at improving the
protection of war victims. Banning the use of certain weapons, such
as anti-personnel landmines and blinding weapons, is among the issues
currently being examined.
the 1965 ICRC decided that it was coming up to this measure. Even
if the Geneva Conventions dated 1949 have not lost their importance
and significance, they were incomplete in the terms of the necessity
to protect the victims of modern military conflicts. For that reason
ICRC began research the possibilities to fill these gaps in existing
law, providing them with the additive protocols. In February, 1974,
Swiss government convened a diplomatic conference in order to discuss
the draft protocols. Invited were 115 countries who signed Geneva
conventions or/and the member states of United Nations Organization.
In this conference it took part observers representing 14 national
liberation organizations as well as 35 intergovernmental and non-governmental
organizations; 102 official representatives adopted 102 paragraphs
of the First protocol concerning protection of the victims of international
military conflicts, as well as 28 paragraphs of the Second protocol
concerning the protection of the victims of local conflicts. In
June the 10th, 1977, there was the official ceremony
of the signing of these Protocols, but in general these activities
had the ceremonial character. The two Additional Protocols of 1977
supplement the Conventions which aim to limit the use of violence
and protect the civilian population by strengthening the rules governing
the conduct of hostilities.
relation with other international humanitarian law.
a neutral and private organization, whose all participants are Swiss
citizens, as well as an initiator of the acceptance of the Geneva
Convention, ICRC is taking responsibility for the adoption of these
conventions. Moreover, in account of its neutrality this Committee
is based in a convenient place to offer its assistance to the victims
of the warring-sides military conflicts.
the first place, ICRC is a real helper to the wounded and sick military
personnel, as well as shipwreck victims and the prisoners of war,
whose condition it seeks to improve from the moment of their capturing
to their release.
that purpose it
its representatives to the internment camps, concentration camps
or/and labor camps where the imprisoned people are kept;
evaluate these prisoners' lodging and boarding conditions as well
as attitude against them;
necessary, representatives make an appeal to prisoner-keeping country
to reach an preferable improvements.
is acting in favor of the civil persons in the territory of enemy
and in the occupied regions. In the case of local military conflicts
the Committee acts as a neutral mediator (see para 3 common to all
four Geneva conventions from 1949).
sphere of the action of the ICRC is providing the searching of the
missing persons as well as an exchange of information between the
family members divided by military conflicts. The central searching
institution of the ICRC, based in Geneva, too, has recently data-based
the amount of 55 million cards in which there are summarized 30
millions of specific cases in the hundred years' period.
the ICRC is an organization, to which can refer those civilians
who in the case of war are starving. It's not a rare situation when
ICRC is the one and only institution who can overstep the barbed
wires, blockade, as well can make free movements in the occupied
territories providing food, medicine and clothes, blankets etc.
to those are in need.
on the scale of help needed, the ICRC turns for help to the National
committees of the ICRC, the League of the Red Cross organizations,
to the governments not included in war-conflict as well as non-governmental
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