Fourth Geneva Convention

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Warsaw 1939 refugees and soldier

The Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, commonly referred to as the Fourth Geneva Convention and abbreviated as GCIV, is one of the four treaties of the Geneva Conventions. It was adopted in August 1949, and defines humanitarian protections for civilians in a war zone. There are currently 196 countries party to the 1949 Geneva Conventions, including this and the other three treaties.[1]

In 1993, the United Nations Security Council adopted a report from the Secretary-General and a Commission of Experts which concluded that the Geneva Conventions had passed into the body of customary international law, thus making them binding on non-signatories to the Conventions whenever they engage in armed conflicts.[2]

Part I. General Provisions[edit]

  Parties to GC I–IV and P I–III
  Parties to GC I–IV and P I–II
  Parties to GC I–IV and P I and III
  Parties to GC I–IV and P I
  Parties to GC I–IV and P III
  Parties to GC I–IV and no P

This sets out the overall parameters for GCIV:

  • Article 2 states that signatories are bound by the convention both in war, armed conflicts where war has not been declared, and in an occupation of another country's territory.
  • Article 3 states that even where there is not a conflict of international character, the parties must as a minimum adhere to minimal protections described as: non-combatants, members of armed forces who have laid down their arms, and combatants who are hors de combat (out of the fight) due to wounds, detention, or any other cause shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, with the following prohibitions:
    (a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
    (b) taking of hostages;
    (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment
    (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
  • Article 4 defines who is a Protected person: Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals. But it explicitly excludes Nationals of a State which is not bound by the Convention and the citizens of a neutral state or an allied state if that state has normal diplomatic relations within the State in whose hands they are.
  • A number of articles specify how Protecting Powers, ICRC and other humanitarian organizations may aid Protected persons.
  • Article 5 provides for the suspension of persons' rights under the Convention for the duration of time that this is "prejudicial to the security of such State", although "such persons shall nevertheless be treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed by the present Convention."

Protected person is the most important definition in this section because many of the articles in the rest of GCIV only apply to Protected persons.

Part II. General Protection of Populations Against Certain Consequences of War[edit]

Article 13. The provisions of Part II cover the whole of the populations of the countries in conflict, without any adverse distinction based, in particular, on race, nationality, religion or political opinion, and are intended to alleviate the sufferings caused by war.

Part III. Status and Treatment of Protected Persons[edit]

Section I. Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories[edit]

Article 32. A protected person/s shall not have anything done to them of such a character as to cause physical suffering or extermination ... the physical suffering or extermination of protected persons in their hands. This prohibition applies not only to murder, torture, corporal punishments, mutilation and medical or scientific experiments not necessitated by the medical treatment' While popular debate remains on what constitutes a legal definition of torture (see discussion on the Torture page), the ban on corporal punishment simplifies the matter; even the most mundane physical abuse is thereby forbidden by Article 32, as a precaution against alternate definitions of torture.

The prohibition on scientific experiments was added, in part, in response to experiments by German and Japanese doctors during World War II, of whom Josef Mengele was the most infamous.

Collective punishments[edit]

Article 33. No persons may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.
Pillage is prohibited.
Reprisals against persons and their property are prohibited.

Under the 1949 Geneva Conventions, collective punishment is a war crime. By collective punishment, the drafters of the Geneva Conventions had in mind the reprisal killings of World War I and World War II. In the First World War, during the Rape of Belgium, the Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity. In World War II, the Germans carried out a form of collective punishment to suppress resistance. Entire villages or towns or districts were held responsible for any resistance activity that occurred in them.[3] The conventions, to counter this, reiterated the principle of individual responsibility. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Commentary to the conventions states that parties to a conflict often would resort to "intimidatory measures to terrorize the population" in hopes of preventing hostile acts, but such practices "strike at guilty and innocent alike. They are opposed to all principles based on humanity and justice."

Additional Protocol II of 1977 explicitly forbids collective punishment. But as fewer states have ratified this protocol than GCIV, GCIV Article 33 is the one more commonly quoted.

Section III. Occupied territories[edit]

Articles 47-78 impose substantial obligations on occupying powers. As well as numerous provisions for the general welfare of the inhabitants of an occupied territory, an occupier may not forcibly deport protected persons, or deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into occupied territory (Art.49).

Part IV. Execution of the Convention[edit]

This part contains "the formal or diplomatic provisions which it is customary to place at the end of an international Convention to settle the procedure for bringing it into effect are grouped together under this heading (1). They are similar in all four Geneva Conventions.[4]

Annexes[edit]

The ICRC commentary on the Fourth Geneva convention states that when the establishment of hospital and safety zones in occupied territories were discussed reference was made to a draft agreement and it was agreed to append it as an annex I to the Fourth Geneva Convention.[5]

The ICRC states that "the Draft Agreement has only been put forward to States as a model, but the fact that it as carefully drafted at the Diplomatic Conference, which finally adopted it, gives it a very real value. It could usefully be taken as a working basis, therefore, whenever a hospital zone is to be established."[5]

The ICRC states that Annex II is a "...draft which, according to Article 109 (paragraph 1) of the Convention, will be applied in the absence of special agreements between the Parties, deals with the conditions for the receipt and distribution of collective relief shipments. It is based on the traditions of the International Committee of the Red Cross which submitted it, and on the experience the Committee gained during the Second World War."[6]

Annex III contains an example internment card, letter and correspondence card:[7]

  1. An example internment card with dimensions of 10x15 cm.
  2. An example letter with dimensions of 29x15 cm.
  3. An example correspondence card with dimensions of 10x15 cm.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "States party to the main treaties". The American National Red Cross. Retrieved 2009-12-05. 
  2. ^ http://legal.un.org/avl/ha/icty/icty.html
  3. ^ Keylor, William R., "The Twentieth Century World and Beyond," Oxford University Press, New York: 2011.
  4. ^ Commentary: Part IV : Execution of the convention #Section II : Final provisions, Retrieved 2008-10-28
  5. ^ a b ICRC Commentary: Annex I : Draft agreement relating to hospital and safety zones and localities, Retrieved 2008-10-28
  6. ^ ICRC Commentary: Annex II : Draft regulations concerning collective relief, Retrieved 2008-10-28
  7. ^ ICRC Commentary: Annex III Model internment cards, letters and correspondence cards, Retrieved 2008-10-28

External links[edit]