The Geneva Convention is a fundamental international legal treaty that deals with humanitarian law and defines norms for the protection of people during armed clashes - soldiers, prisoners of war, wounded and civilians.

The first contract

Decisions concerning a peaceful attitude to the wounded soldiers began to occur already from the XVI century. True, these were short-term contracts, and they were concluded between specific states.

The first Geneva Convention concerned all countries without exception, which 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 training, who 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 wounded, and the establishment of societies that would care for providing medical support during hostilities.

Geneva Convention of 1949

In 1863, with the assistance of the same Henri Dunant, an international conference took place that determined the basis 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, which lasted from August 8 to 22, was held. It discussed the possibility of adopting an agreement on servicemen who were injured in military conflicts. The result of this meeting was 1 Geneva Convention.

It was based on the idea of ​​providing protection and assistance to all the wounded, regardless of whether they are fighting on the side of allies or enemies. At the same time, all those who need support, as well as medical personnel, should be considered neutral persons, on whose side they are. This means that these people can not be taken prisoner or considered such. In addition, hospitals and their material part, as well as local residents, who will help the wounded, must be inviolate.

The first convention by 1867 was ratified in 12 countries. The US did this only in 1882. After a while, other states joined it, after which it began to gain universal recognition.

Documents signed in 1949

The need to adopt updated international legal norms became apparent after the Second World War, during which a huge number of civilians became victims. It is in this regard that the Swiss Federal Council in 1948 decided to invite representatives of 70 countries to an international conference. Its purpose was to change the pre-existing rules, based on the experience of the past war. The invitation was received by 59 states and a number of international organizations, including the United Nations. Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross attended as an observer here.

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 sick and wounded persons, shipwrecked, members of the naval armed forces;
  • on the protection of civilians during military operations.

Basic principles

The Geneva Convention of 1949 consolidated the basic provisions of international law, which consist in the fact that wars must be waged only against the enemy's army. Violence against civilians, prisoners of war, wounded and sick is strictly prohibited. As we see, these agreements require from the warring parties to draw a clear line between the direct armed participants and civilians.

Also, the Geneva Convention of 1949 insists that attacks in times of armed conflict can only be directed to military installations. In addition, it is forbidden to use any kind of weapons, as well as to conduct military operations, which can cause unjustified losses and significant destruction of property.

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

The Geneva Convention of 1949 enshrined the right of sick and wounded to medical assistance, regardless of whose side they fought. In addition, the protection of both medical personnel and medical facilities, as well as their equipment and transport, must be guaranteed. A protective sign for them is the emblem of the red cross or crescent, depicted on a white background. Objects and people bearing such signs should not be attacked.


These international agreements must act 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 the territories. The countries where the Geneva Convention operates are obliged to identify and punish those persons who ordered or carried out actions that violate the clauses of these documents. Such people should be judged by those states in whose territory the crimes were committed. A tribunal may also be held in any other participating country that has ratified these conventions, if it has incontrovertible evidence of their guilt.

The documents signed in Geneva in 1949 came into force one year later, on October 21. Switzerland was the first country to ratify these agreements. The USSR signed the Convention 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 that allows the national societies involved in helping the wounded, instead of the symbol of the Red Cross or the Crescent, 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 controlling body for the observance and implementation of these agreements.