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The Geneva Convention

The Geneva Convention is actually a series of four treaties and three additional protocols that establish the standards of international law and regulate conduct during warfare. When used in the singular, the “Geneva Convention” specifically refers to the 1949 treaty, adopted after World War II that both updates and expands upon the first three Geneva Conventions of 1864, 1906, and 1929. 195 countries around the world have adopted the 1949 Geneva Convention.

Geneva Convention

The First Geneva Convention, originally adopted in 1864, grew out of the establishment of the International Red Cross, which serves as the enforcement body of the first treaty. This treaty, enlarged and revised in 1949, covers the treatment of soldiers who are hors de combat, or out of the fighting due to sickness or injury, plus medical and religious personnel and civilians.

The Second Geneva Convention, as revised in 1949, covers the treatment of wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea. All such individuals must be protected, but they can be held as prisoners of war.

The Third Geneva Convention of 1949 describes the humane treatment of prisoners of war, including the notion that they are the responsibility of the state, and have the right to send and receive mail. The Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 details the protection of civilians in war zones.

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