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The Geneva Conventions and Human Rights during Wartime. Jeffrey Spike, Ph.D. Florida State University College of Medicine The Geneva Convention.

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the geneva conventions and human rights during wartime

The Geneva Conventions and Human Rights during Wartime

Jeffrey Spike, Ph.D.

Florida State University College of Medicine

the geneva convention
The Geneva Convention
  • First proposed in 1859 by Henry Dunant after seeing the Battle of Solferino, in which 40,000 men died in battle and another 40,000 died of their wounds
  • He was inspired by nurses Florence Nightingale in Europe and Clara Barton in the US
  • First drafted and ratified in Europe in 1864, modern version with four Conventions drafted in 1949 and ratified by 191 countries
  • Led to the establishment of the Red Cross in 1877
  • The modern Conventions guarantee human rights to four groups: the sick and wounded, shipwrecked sailors, prisoners of war, and civilians in territory occupied by an army
geneva conventions i ii
Geneva Conventions I & II

The human dignity of all individuals must be respected at all times

  • Everything possible must be done, without any kind of discrimination, to reduce the suffering of people who have

been put out of action by sickness, wounds or captivity

  • If a member of the armed forces is wounded or sick, and therefore in no condition to take an active part in the hostilities, he is no longer part of the fighting force and becomes a vulnerable person in need of protection and care.
  • Belligerents must treat members of enemy forces who are wounded, sick or shipwrecked as carefully their own
  • Medical equipment must not be intentionally destroyed and medical establishments and vehicles must not be attacked, damaged or prevented from operating
geneva convention iii
Geneva Convention III

Prisoners of War Must be

-Allowed to inform next of kin and International Red Cross of their capture

- Allowed to correspond regularly with relatives and to receive relief parcels

- Allowed to keep their clothes, feeding utensils and personal effects- Supplied with adequate food and clothing- Provided with quarters not inferior to those of their captor's troops- Given the medical care their state of health demands- Paid for any work they do- Repatriated if certified seriously ill or wounded

(but they must not resume active military duties afterwards)

- Quickly released and repatriated when hostilities cease.

Prisoners of war must NOT be:-Compelled to give any information other than their name, age, rank and service number.

Torture or inhumane treatment of prisoners-of-war (Geneva III, arts. 17 & 87) or protected persons (Geneva IV, art. 32) are grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, and are considered war crimes

geneva convention iv
Geneva Convention IV

Detained civilians must at all times be humanely treated (Geneva III, art. 13, Geneva IV, art. 27).  Protected civilians MUST be:- Protected against acts or threats of violence, insults and public curiosity

- Entitled to respect for their honor, family rights, religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs- Specially protected, for example in safety zones, if wounded, sick, old, children under 15, expectant mothers or mothers of children under 7.- Enabled to exchange family news of a personal kind

- Helped to secure news of family members dispersed by the conflict- Allowed to practice their religion with ministers of their own faith

  • Detainees may be questioned, but any form of “physical or mental coercion” is prohibited (Geneva III, art. 17; Geneva IV, art. 31)
  • Women shall be protected from indecent assault, prostitution, and rape (Geneva IV, art. 27)
two protocols added in 1977 ratified by over 160 nations
Two protocols added in 1977(ratified by over 160 nations)
  • Protocol I adds explicit protections to outlaw attacks on civilians and civilian targets. Prohibits:

-attacking dams, houses of worship, food and water supplies

-recruiting children under 15 into armed forces

-bombing nuclear power stations and weapons which cause long term and severe environmental damage

-use of weapons that “cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering.”

  • Protocol II adds explicit protections to civilians during a civil war. Prohibits

-collective punishment, pillage, terrorism, and hostage-taking -attacks on basic needs for civilian survival such as crops, drinking water supplies and irrigation systems

uniform code of military justice
Uniform Code of Military Justice
  • Military personnel who mistreat prisoners can be prosecuted by a court-martial under various provisions of the UCMJ, arts. 77-134.
  • Military contractors working for the Department of Defense might also be prosecuted under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-778), known as MEJA