The Geneva Convention is a fundamental international legal treaty relating to humanitarian law and defining standards for the protection of people during armed clashes - soldiers, prisoners of war, wounded and civilians.

First contract

Resolutions relating to the peace-loving attitude towards wounded soldiers began to occur as early as the 16th century. True, these were short-term contracts, and they were concluded between specific states.

The First Geneva Convention concerned all countries, without exception, that were involved in military conflicts. This document was adopted on August 22, 1864. It must be said that Henri Dunant played an important role in his preparation. He witnessed the inhuman suffering of the wounded and dying soldiers of the Austrian and French armies after the battle in 1859 at Solferino (Italy). It was he who initiated the creation of a whole list of rules relating to the treatment of the sick and the wounded, as well as the establishment of societies that would take care of providing medical support during hostilities.

1949 Geneva Convention

In 1863, with the assistance of the same Henri Dunant, an international conference was held, which laid the foundation for the activities of the new organization called the Red Cross. A year later, at the invitation of the Swiss government in Geneva, a meeting of representatives of leading European countries took place, which lasted from 8 to 22 August. It discussed the possibility of adopting a treaty on military personnel who were injured during military conflicts. The outcome of this meeting was the 1 Geneva Convention.

It was based on the idea of ​​providing patronage and helping all the wounded, regardless of whether they are fighting on the side of the allies or enemies. At the same time, all those in need of support, as well as medical personnel, should be considered neutral persons, on whatever side they are. This means that these people cannot be taken prisoner or considered as such. In addition, hospitals and their material part, as well as persons from among local residents who will help the wounded, should become inviolable.

The first convention by 1867 was ratified in 12 countries. The United States did this only in 1882. After some time, other states began to join it, after which it began to gain universal acceptance.

Documents signed in 1949

The need to adopt updated international legal norms became apparent after the Second World War, during which the victims were a huge number of civilians. It was on this occasion that the Swiss Federal Council decided in 1948 to invite representatives of 70 countries to an international conference. Her goal was to change the rules that existed before, based on the experience of the past war. The invitation was accepted by 59 states and a number of international organizations, including the UN. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross were present as observers.

The conference was held the following year. She began on 21 April and ended on 12 August. As a result of the meetings was developed the four Geneva conventions of 1949 on the protection of persons injured in the course of the war:

  • about sick and wounded soldiers in land armies;
  • on the humane treatment of prisoners of war;
  • about the sick and wounded shipwrecked members of the maritime armed forces;
  • on the protection of civilians during hostilities.

Basic principles

The 1949 Geneva Convention enshrined the basic provisions of international law, which consist in the fact that wars should be fought only against the army of the enemy. Violence against the civilian population, prisoners of war, the wounded and the sick is strictly prohibited. As we see, these agreements require the warring parties to draw a clear distinction between direct armed participants and civilians.

Also, the 1949 Geneva Convention insists that attacks during armed conflicts can be directed exclusively at military targets. In addition, it is forbidden to use any kind of weapon, as well as to conduct hostilities that may cause unreasonable losses and significant property destruction.

According to the accepted documents, internees and prisoners of war are guaranteed the safety of health and life, as well as protection from various violent acts. At the same time, the opposing side must respect their dignity, religious and political beliefs, provide basic judicial rights, the ability to correspond with families, etc. It is forbidden to force prisoners to serve in the army of the enemy and take hostages.

The 1949 Geneva Convention enshrined the right of the sick and wounded to medical care, regardless of which side they fought. In addition, the protection of both medical personnel and medical institutions, as well as their equipment and vehicles, must be guaranteed. The red cross or crescent emblem depicted on a white background should serve as a protective sign for them. Objects and people wearing such marks should not be attacked.


These international agreements should be valid in the event of any armed clashes, even when one of the warring parties does not recognize its participation in the war, as well as the occupation of territories. The countries where the Geneva Convention is in force are obliged to identify and punish those who ordered to carry out or themselves committed actions that violate the provisions of these documents. Such people should be judged by those states in whose territory the crimes were committed. A tribunal can also be held in any other member state that ratifies these conventions if it has irrefutable evidence of their guilt.

Documents signed in Geneva in 1949 entered into force a year later, on October 21. Switzerland was the first country to ratify these agreements. The USSR signed the conventions only two years after their entry into force.

Documents adopted in 1977

The armed conflicts that began to arise after world war II, showed the need for some extension to this accepted legal norms relating to rules of warfare. The Geneva Convention of 1977 was forced to take two Additional protocols. They distributed the provisions of the existing documents, and persons involved in internal conflicts.

At the end of 2005, another Additional Protocol was adopted, which allows national societies involved in helping the injured, instead of the Red Cross or Crescent symbol, to use a different sign - a red crystal, also depicted on a white background.


Today, 194 countries have already joined the conventions adopted in Geneva in 1949. The first Additional Protocol was ratified by 170, the second by 165, and the third by 53 states. The International Committee of the Red Cross is the supervisory authority for the observance and implementation of these agreements.