Happy 60th Birthday

It was 60 years ago today that the fourth treaty of the Geneva Conventions was signed.

We might wish that wars were a thing of the past but, unless and until that day arrives, the attempt to engage in conflictal resolution of differences in the most humanitarian way possible is a necessary undertaking. One might be concerned that not only is there a failure to actively promote the agreement but actions by the recently replaced regime in one of the world's most powerful countries has led to an erosion of concern for the Convention. An article last April by Dahlia Lithwick is food for thought.


Every person in enemy hands must have some status under international law: he is either a prisoner of war and, as such, covered by the Third Convention, a civilian covered by the Fourth Convention, or again, a member of the medical personnel of the armed forces who is covered by the First Convention. There is no intermediate status; nobody in enemy hands can be outside the law.
[ICRC Commentary, Fourth Geneva Convention, p. 51 (1958)].


Not only Convention 3 concerning prisoners of war but Convention 4 concerning affected civilians is in question.

In World War I, one civilian death was recorded for every 10 military deaths. During the Second World War the ratio of deaths was equal. In contemporary conflicts approximately 10 civilians are killed for every military casualty.


"The tensions of our time are too severe to permit us to neglect these resources and should impel us to use the United Nations in such a manner as to widen the possibilities for constructive negotiation".

Dag Hammarskjold - 1967

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