Authored by - Vasundra V
Keywords - International Law, Wounded Civilians, Military Personnel, Geneva Conventions.
Imagining countries not participating in war is difficult but protecting the country from war is possible. This possibility will never arise without the help of military soldiers. As mentioned by Thomas Jefferson, from time to time, the tree of liberty must be watered with the blood of tyrants and patriots. Giving medical aid to all the wounded warriors is what counts as an act towards humanitarianism. Thus, the aim of this article is to analyze the history of International Humanitarian Law in armed conflicts, which came out as the result of the Geneva Convention.
The Geneva Convention was a series of conferences held by international diplomats, between the years 1864 to 1949. Military forces of India include Army, Navy, and the Air Force. However, each country has its separate laws for rules and limitations pertaining to the military. In the 1850s, scholars found that there is a lack of facilities for the treatment of wounded, captured military personnel and non-military civilians during the times of war and armed conflicts. Hence, to develop the concern towards the above-said facilities, Dunant who got inspired by his wartime experiences proposed this idea of the Geneva Convention.
The whole concept of the Geneva Conventions is to provide the basic rights for the wartime prisoners, civilians, and military personnel. It comprises of four treaties with the three protocols to set a standard in international law for the humanitarian treatment during wars. The term Geneva Convention basically denotes the treaty of 1949 which took place once after the Second World War(1939-1945). This Convention generated a number of agreements, international laws for the treatment of wounded or captured persons during a war, and particularly led to the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts. However, it is pertinent to understand that it does not deal with the welfare or weapons of war which is the subject of the Hague Conventions.
The Genevan businessman Dunant, to seek land rights for his business venture, traveled to Northern Italy’s headquarters of Emperor Napoleon Ill’s and acquired a deal more than he bargained for. He also visited the wounded soldiers of the Battle of Solferino, the battle in the Second War of Italian Independence in 1859. The visual aftermath of the battle made himself a witness in the lack of facilities and medical aid available to help those soldiers. This impact made him write the book “A Memory of Solferino” in 1862, which not only talks about his observation but also proposes solutions to tackle the problem of lack of supplies. The solution calls all nations to come together to create a permanent relief agency for humanitarian aid and to treat battlefield wounded persons in the times of war. The former proposal led the Red Cross in Geneva headed by Dunant and he got the Nobel Peace Prize. Later, the Geneva Convention of 1864 aroused, which is further continued to have more conferences with the signatures of many countries and new policies between 1864 to 1949.
The First Geneva Convention (1864)
Delegates from the 16 countries traveled to Geneva to discuss the Wartime Humanitarian Agreement in October 1863. This resulted in the treaty being signed by 12 countries in 1864. The First Geneva Convention aimed at providing medical treatment to the wounded and sick persons of Armed Forces in the war field.
The Second Geneva Convention (1906)
The Swiss Government arranged the conference in 1906, which consisted of 35 countries to review and update the First Convention. The amendments sort to provide protection for those who were wounded, captured in battle, volunteer agencies and medical personnel tasked with treating, transporting, and removing the wounded and killed. It also made the repatriation of captured belligerents a recommendation instead of a mandatory requirement. This replaced the first convention of 1864.
The Third Geneva Convention(1929)
It was clear that the 1906 Convention would not go far enough and the Convention of 1929 replaced it after World War I. The 1929 Convention added the civilized treatment of prisoners of war.The new updates stated that all prisoners must be treated with compassion and live inhumane conditions. It also laid out rules for the daily lives of prisoners and established the International Red Cross as the main neutral organization responsible for collecting and transmitting data about prisoners of war and the wounded or killed. This was signed by Germany, however, that did not prevent them from carrying out horrific acts on and off the battlefield, within their military prison camps and civilian concentration camps during World War II.
Fourth Geneva Convention (1949)
As a result of the previous Convention, the Fourth Convention of 1949 took place to protect non-combatant civilians and it was the first Convention not to deal with combatants. This Convention laid out certain rules for protecting wounded, sick or shipwrecked armed forces at sea or on hospital ships. The list also included medical workers and civilians accompanying or treating military personnel, which included the restriction in not using the hospital ships. The rules for both the male and female prisoners are also listed in the Geneva Convention Act.
The Geneva Convention Act, 1960
This act was enforced on 12th March 1960. This Act is the result of the International Convention held at Geneva on the 12th of August 1949. Currently, 196 countries are the parties of the Geneva Convention to which India is a participant too. This Act with the eleven chapters and 159 sections are applicable to all those 196 parties with the outcomes of all four Geneva conventions with respect to the Military Forces.
Geneva Convention is the cornerstone for the protection of all the basic rights of soldiers in wartimes. This convention is a great step towards human dignity in armed conflicts. The best example in India, as a part of the Geneva Convention, is the arrest of Indian Air Force’s Wing Commander Abhinandhan Varthaman by Pakistan. The commander would have never returned to India, had it not been for the conventions. However, the Pilot was treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention of 1929. Therefore, the convention plays a great role in countries.
1. The Geneva Convention Act, 1960
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