Fourth Geneva Convention
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.
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.
- 1 Part I. General Provisions
- 2 Part II. General Protection of Populations Against Certain Consequences of War
- 3 Part III. Status and Treatment of Protected Persons
- 4 Part IV. Execution of the Convention
- 5 Annexes
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Part I. General Provisions
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
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
Section I. Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories
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.
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, the Germans executed Belgian villagers in mass retribution for resistance activity during the Rape of Belgium. In World War II, both the Germans and the Japanese 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 at those places. 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
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).
Art. 49. Individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.
Nevertheless, the Occupying Power may undertake total or partial evacuation of a given area if the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand. Such evacuations may not involve the displacement of protected persons outside the bounds of the occupied territory except when for material reasons it is impossible to avoid such displacement. Persons thus evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.
The Occupying Power undertaking such transfers or evacuations shall ensure, to the greatest practicable extent, that proper accommodation is provided to receive the protected persons, that the removals are effected in satisfactory conditions of hygiene, health, safety and nutrition, and that members of the same family are not separated.
The Protecting Power shall be informed of any transfers and evacuations as soon as they have taken place.
The Occupying Power shall not detain protected persons in an area particularly exposed to the dangers of war unless the security of the population or imperative military reasons so demand.
The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.
Art. 50. The Occupying Power shall, with the cooperation of the national and local authorities, facilitate the proper working of all institutions devoted to the care and education of children.
The Occupying Power shall take all necessary steps to facilitate the identification of children and the registration of their parentage. It may not, in any case, change their personal status, nor enlist them in formations or organizations subordinate to it.
Should the local institutions be inadequate for the purpose, the Occupying Power shall make arrangements for the maintenance and education, if possible by persons of their own nationality, language and religion, of children who are orphaned or separated from their parents as a result of the war and who cannot be adequately cared for by a near relative or friend.
A special section of the Bureau set up in accordance with Article 136 shall be responsible for taking all necessary steps to identify children whose identity is in doubt. Particulars of their parents or other near relatives should always be recorded if available.
The Occupying Power shall not hinder the application of any preferential measures in regard to food, medical care and protection against the effects of war which may have been adopted prior to the occupation in favour of children under fifteen years, expectant mothers, and mothers of children under seven years.
Art. 53. Any destruction by the Occupying Power of real or personal property belonging individually or collectively to private persons, or to the State, or to other public authorities, or to social or cooperative organizations, is prohibited, except where such destruction is rendered absolutely necessary by military operations.
Art. 56. To the fullest extent of the means available to it, the Occupying Power has the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory, with particular reference to the adoption and application of the prophylactic and preventive measures necessary to combat the spread of contagious diseases and epidemics. Medical personnel of all categories shall be allowed to carry out their duties.
If new hospitals are set up in occupied territory and if the competent organs of the occupied State are not operating there, the occupying authorities shall, if necessary, grant them the recognition provided for in Article 18. In similar circumstances, the occupying authorities shall also grant recognition to hospital personnel and transport vehicles under the provisions of Articles 20 and 21.
In adopting measures of health and hygiene and in their implementation, the Occupying Power shall take into consideration the moral and ethical susceptibilities of the population of the occupied territory.
Part IV. Execution of the Convention
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.
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.
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."
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."
Annex III contains an example internment card, letter and correspondence card:
- An example internment card with dimensions of 10x15 cm.
- An example letter with dimensions of 29x15 cm.
- An example correspondence card with dimensions of 10x15 cm.
- List of parties to the Geneva Conventions
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights
- Human Being
- International humanitarian law
- "States party to the main treaties". The American National Red Cross. Retrieved 2009-12-05.
- Keylor, William R., "The Twentieth Century World and Beyond," Oxford University Press, New York: 2011.
- Commentary: Part IV : Execution of the convention #Section II : Final provisions, Retrieved 2008-10-28
- ICRC Commentary: Annex I : Draft agreement relating to hospital and safety zones and localities, Retrieved 2008-10-28
- ICRC Commentary: Annex II : Draft regulations concerning collective relief, Retrieved 2008-10-28
- ICRC Commentary: Annex III Model internment cards, letters and correspondence cards, Retrieved 2008-10-28
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