What is the Geneva Convention of 1949?

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The Geneva Convention of 1949 defines the basic rights of the Prisoner of War (whether Military personnel or civilian). It denotes the agreements signed in 1949, after World War II. It comprises of four treaties and the three additional protocols. It helped establish international law for humanitarian treatment of the wartime prisoners in a war.  The 1949 agreement includes two updated terms and two conventions later added to the two treaties signed earlier in 1929.

Geneva Convention of 1949

The concept of protecting the rights of the wartime prisoners were brought in by Henry Dunant, a Swiss businessman after he paid a visit to the wounded soldiers of the battle of Solferino in 1859.

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He was shocked and upset by the lack of facilities and medical aid and appealed for:

  • A permanent relief agency for humanitarian aid in times of war.
  • A government treaty recognizing the neutrality of the agency and allowing it to provide aid in a war zone

Henry Dunant became the co-recipient of the first Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.

The former treaty led to the formation of the Red Cross and the latter to the Geneva Convention. The four conventions of the Geneva Convention of 1949 are:

Geneva Convention of 1949

  • The first Geneva Convention (first adopted in 1864, revised in 1906, 1929 and finally in 1949) was about the treatment of sick and wounded personnel of the armed forces in the field.
  • The second convention (adopted in 1949) dealt with the shipwrecked, sick and wounded members of the armed forces at sea.
  • The third convention (first adopted in 1929, last revision in 1949) was all about the treatment of prisoners of war during times of war.
  • The fourth convention (adopted in 1949) was meant to protect the basic rights and provide humane treatment to the civilians during the times of the war.

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These are the three Protocols that helped modify the 1949 Geneva Convention:

  • Protocol I (1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts
  • Protocol II (1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts
  • Protocol III (2005) relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem.

These are some of the most serious crimes that are termed as Grave Breaches under the Geneva Convention:

  • Willful killing, torture or inhumane treatment, including biological experiments
  • Willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health
  • Compelling a protected person to serve in the armed forces of a hostile power
  • Willfully depriving a protected person of the right to a fair trial if accused of a war crime.

The Grave Breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 are:

Geneva Convention of 1949

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  • Taking of hostages.
  • Extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly.
  • Unlawful deportation, transfer, or confinement.

The Geneva Convention of 1949 with all its reservations has been ratified by 196 countries.

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