Law and Famous Trials

Geneva Conventions

What are the Geneva Conventions?

The Geneva Conventions are humanitarian treaties signed by almost all of the approximately 200 nations in the world today (there were 189 signatories as of 2003). The treaties were forged in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1864, 1906, 1929, and 1949. (The initial protocols, of 1864, gave rise to the Red Cross.) There were two amendments, called protocols, in 1977. In their entirety, the Geneva Conventions set standards for how signatory nations are to treat the enemy during war; they cover access to and treatment of battlefield casualties, treatment of prisoners of war (POWs), and the treatment of civilians.

The Geneva Conventions, along with the Hague Conventions (1899, 1907), comprise much of what is called International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Because so many nations of the world have ratified both the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, they are considered customary international law, which means they are binding on all nations.


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