The Start of the Geneva Convention

Warfare is a terrible thing, and whether the weapons are swords or guns, or the people are good or evil, the harm that war causes the innocent and the helpless is hard to look away from as the war goes on.

Some empires and civilizations cared about the helpless and sought to make sure that people were healed, but others simply raided and destroyed without mercy. Thankfully, the Red Cross was formed by Henry Dunant, who had witnessed a particularly gruesome battle in Italy, and wrote a book on what he had seen and how to ensure it was halted.

October 1863 was the date as 16 countries sent delegates to discuss a wartime agreement that would keep the conflict humane and support the wounded and prisoners during a battle. This was the first Geneva Convention, and the start of many.

World War 1

Several other meetings were held throughout the years to update the convention, and once World War 1 ended, a major update was made in 1929 to ensure that prisoners were treated kindly. These updates said that prisoners must still be treated like humans and live in humane environments.

Prisoners couldn’t be tortured and had to have certain conditions during their daily lives. The Red Cross was also officially made neutral and could record the data about the prisoners each side had taken as well as the number of people killed and injured.

World War 2

Unfortunately, the horrors and atrocities of the Second World War showed that the convention needed to be updated to keep non-combatants and innocents safe. Nations at war couldn’t target hospitals, civilians, religious holdings and figures, and civilians who defended themselves were still treated as people, and not as warriors.

The articles of the Convention also let the Red Cross to aid the sick and wounded of all forces and protected them from war crimes and torture. In addition, ships that are flying hospital colors are immune from attack and if personnel are shipwrecked they must be saved by both sides.

Finally captured prisoners of war are immune to torture, must be fed and housed adequately, and can only give their name, rank, and serial number if captured.

One more change

More protocols were added to the convention to ban nuclear and chemical weapons that cause long term damage to the environment or suffering of people. Punishment is often swift and condemning for any nation that violates the rules of war, and the 190 members of the convention attempt to ensure that war is kept as civilized as possible.

However, several nations do not follow all of these rules, including the U.S. It is often because the protection of civilians can allow terrorists or enemy combatants to hide among the civilian population and they can be classified as noncombatants.

The Geneva Convention isn’t perfect, and mostly kicks in when the war ends and people can be punished for crimes, but it is something and it helps to provide a guideline for war to ensure that the innocents are kept safe.