(Thumbnail image from Wikipedia)

August 12th marked the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. Encompassing 194 countries, the conventions outline humanitarian principles in matters of war, including treatment of the wounded, treatment of prisoners, and the protection of civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross has played a large part in raising awareness of the anniversary and the challenges the convention’s face in today’s world.

Our research has found varying opinions on both the relevance of the conventions and their importance. Violations of the conventions have been widespread, and have not been limited to third world countries.

In a FOX News interview concerning the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison, United States General David Patraeus candidly admitted to America’s passed violations and the importance of adhering to the conventions.  

“When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Convention, we rightly have been criticized, and as we move forward I think it is important to again live our values, to live the agreements we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.”  
 
Prisoner violations are only one area of the conventions that have been openly flouted.  On the world stage, a larger issue has to do with their relevance to the methods of contemporary warfare.  An article on the Swiss news Web site swissinfo highlights some of these changes.

“As most conflicts now take place within state borders rather than between states, and most of the fighting is conducted not by governments but by rebel groups, the conventions and treaties need to be revised.”

However, an article in Al Jazeera English highlights some critics’ concerns that revising the conventions to address these new aspects of warfare has potential drawbacks.  

“But others warn that tampering with the wording of the Conventions could cause additional problems, allowing governments currently in breach of their requirements to legitimise their positions.”

Even still, strengthening sanctions to protect civilians from combat has been a major focus of the Red Cross.  Evidence of this issue’s importance is highlighted in a BBC report documenting the destruction of a Georgia village after this year’s invasion by Russia.   

“Disproportionate and indiscriminate damage of civilian property - in theory, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.  I would say that the Geneva Conventions didn’t really help them the Geneva Convention actually states that all precaution should be take to spare citizen lives and property.  It doesn’t only include citizen life and property but also infrastructures that are essential to survival.”

Considering war atrocities such as the Genocide in Darfur and high civilian casualties in the Middle East, Louis Belanger, a blogger for The Huffington Post and Oxfam International spokesman, emphasizes the importance of not assuming the conventions have failed.  

“This attitude is intellectually lazy and deeply unhelpful. We should react to their endemic violations with anger and determination, not resignation.”

Should the international community start regulating the Geneva Conventions with a heavier hand, or should the conventions be revised?

Geneva Turns 60 Years Old

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Aug 12, 2009

Geneva Turns 60 Years Old

(Thumbnail image from Wikipedia)

August 12th marked the 60th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions. Encompassing 194 countries, the conventions outline humanitarian principles in matters of war, including treatment of the wounded, treatment of prisoners, and the protection of civilians. The International Committee of the Red Cross has played a large part in raising awareness of the anniversary and the challenges the convention’s face in today’s world.

Our research has found varying opinions on both the relevance of the conventions and their importance. Violations of the conventions have been widespread, and have not been limited to third world countries.

In a FOX News interview concerning the closing of the Guantanamo Bay prison, United States General David Patraeus candidly admitted to America’s passed violations and the importance of adhering to the conventions.  

“When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Convention, we rightly have been criticized, and as we move forward I think it is important to again live our values, to live the agreements we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.”  
 
Prisoner violations are only one area of the conventions that have been openly flouted.  On the world stage, a larger issue has to do with their relevance to the methods of contemporary warfare.  An article on the Swiss news Web site swissinfo highlights some of these changes.

“As most conflicts now take place within state borders rather than between states, and most of the fighting is conducted not by governments but by rebel groups, the conventions and treaties need to be revised.”

However, an article in Al Jazeera English highlights some critics’ concerns that revising the conventions to address these new aspects of warfare has potential drawbacks.  

“But others warn that tampering with the wording of the Conventions could cause additional problems, allowing governments currently in breach of their requirements to legitimise their positions.”

Even still, strengthening sanctions to protect civilians from combat has been a major focus of the Red Cross.  Evidence of this issue’s importance is highlighted in a BBC report documenting the destruction of a Georgia village after this year’s invasion by Russia.   

“Disproportionate and indiscriminate damage of civilian property - in theory, a violation of the Geneva Conventions.  I would say that the Geneva Conventions didn’t really help them the Geneva Convention actually states that all precaution should be take to spare citizen lives and property.  It doesn’t only include citizen life and property but also infrastructures that are essential to survival.”

Considering war atrocities such as the Genocide in Darfur and high civilian casualties in the Middle East, Louis Belanger, a blogger for The Huffington Post and Oxfam International spokesman, emphasizes the importance of not assuming the conventions have failed.  

“This attitude is intellectually lazy and deeply unhelpful. We should react to their endemic violations with anger and determination, not resignation.”

Should the international community start regulating the Geneva Conventions with a heavier hand, or should the conventions be revised?

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