Geneva Conventions: Know all about international rule that guides treatment of PoWs

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Updated: Feb 27, 2019 8:42 PM

The Geneva Convention started after several rounds of deliberations took place at the global level where the International Law makers as well as the diplomats met to frame international laws meant to ensure humane treatment of wounded or captured military personnel during war-time.

Geneva Conventions, what is Geneva Conventions, meaning of Geneva Conventions, prisoners of wars, guidelines for prisoners of wars, world war IIThe universal rule of war is found in the Law of armed conflict in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. (Reuters)

The definition of Geneva Conventions outlines the basic rights of wartime prisoner, including civilians and military personnel, established protections for the wounded and sick, and established measures to safeguard civilians in and around a war-zone.

World leaders in 1949, following the World War II, the Geneva Conventions were signed and ratified by 196 countries including many that did not participate or sign until decades later. Including countries like Angola, Bangladesh, and Iran. It is the most widely-supported international treaty of its kind.

The Geneva Convention started after several rounds of deliberations took place at the global level where the International Law makers as well as the diplomats met to frame international laws meant to ensure humane treatment of wounded or captured military personnel during war-time.

The first time a set of norms were published was in 1929, which were refined in 1949, and in 1977 two additional protocols were adopted in 1977, which expanded the rules. Then, a third protocol was agreed in 2005, which recognised an additional emblem, the Red Crystal.

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By 2010, around 170 countries have ratified Protocol I and 165 have ratified Protocol II. Any nation that has ratified the Geneva Conventions but not the protocols is still bound by all provisions of the conventions.

The universal rule of war is found in the Law of armed conflict in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949. These include:

Care for the wounded, sick and shipwrecked, regardless of whether they are friends or enemies

Humane treatment of prisoners

Protection of civilian persons and property

Respect for the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Crystal emblems

Attacking only military targets

Limiting the use of force

No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular, to obtain information from them or from third parties

The Conventions are clear on the detaining powers when it says: “The detaining power may prosecute them for possible war crimes, but not for acts of violence that are lawful under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL).”

IHL protects all victims of armed conflicts, including civilians, and combatants who are injured, have been captured or have laid down their arms. All parties to an armed conflict – whether states or organised non-state armed groups – are bound by IHL.

Under the law, the PoW must be treated humanely in all circumstances and are to be protected against any act of violence, as well as against intimidation, insults and public curiosity.

It also orders the countries to provide minimum conditions of detention and directs them to accommodate the POW in terms of food, clothing, hygiene and medical care supplies.

Under Article 3 of Geneva Conventions every party is required to treat prisoners humanely.

What are the Four Geneva Conventions?

Convention I: It protects wounded and infirm soldiers and ensures humane treatment without discrimination founded on race, colour, sex, religion or faith, birth or wealth, etc.

Convention II: It extends the protections described in the first convention to shipwrecked soldiers and other naval forces, including special protections afforded to hospital ships.

Convention III: One of the treaties created during the 1949 convention, this defined ‘Prisoner of War,’ and accorded such prisoners proper and humane treatment as specified by the first convention. It also allowed the POWs to give only their names, ranks, and serial numbers to their captors. Nations party to the convention may not use torture to extract information from POWs.

Convention IV: Under this convention, civilians are afforded the same protections from inhumane treatment and attack afforded to sick and wounded soldiers in the first convention.

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