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World War Two - The Geneva Convention

Background

In 1859 a Swiss man, Henry Dunant, was horrified to see thousands of wounded soldiers after a battle being abandoned with no one to offer them aid or help.

Dunant suggested that voluntary relief societies should be set up and trained to care for the wounded in times of war. He also suggested that there should be an international agreement to protect the wounded from further attack.

In 1864 governments were invited to send representatives to a conference and 16 nations signed a treaty stating that in future wars they would care for all sick and wounded military personnel, regardless of nationality. Medical personnel would also be considered neutral in war and they would be identified by a red cross on a white background.

Red Cross

The Geneva Convention

The treaty was called the Geneva Convention. At this point the Convention was only concerned with wounded soldiers but it soon expanded to include others caught up in warfare who were not actually fighting.

The Second Geneva Convention expanded the first to include those wounded at sea.

The main points of these two conventions are that enemy forces who are wounded, sick or shipwrecked must be treated and cared for. Enemy dead should be collected quickly and protected from robbery. Medical equipment must not be deliberately destroyed and medical vehicles should not be attacked or damaged or otherwise prevented from operating.

The Third Geneva Convention, drawn up in 1929, covers military personnel who fall into enemy hands. It states that:

Prisoners of war must be:

Prisoners of war must not be:

Countries that Signed the 1929 Geneva Convention

America     Austria     Belgium     Bolivia     Brazil     Bulgaria     Chile     China     Colombia      Cuba     Czechoslovakia     Denmark     Dominican Republic     Egypt     Estonia     Finland     France     Germany     Great Britain, Ireland and British Dominions     Greece     Hungary     Iceland     India     Italy     Latvia     Luxembourg     Mexico     Nicaragua     Norway     Netherlands     Persia     Poland     Portugal     Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia     Siam     Spain     Sweden     Switzerland     Turkey     Uruguay     Venezuela  

Countries that did not sign the 1929 Geneva Convention

USSR - Would only agree to the terms of the Hague Convention that did not allow prison camps to be inspected, prisoners to receive correspondence, or for notification of prisoners taken.

Japan - though in 1942 did promise to abide by its terms

 

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Bibliography/Further Information

 

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