Geneva Convention

Relevancy

  • G.S.Paper 2 (International Relations), 4 (ethics)

Why in news?

  • Indian Air Force’s Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, in Pakistani custody after his plane was shot down today, will be governed under the Geneva Convention of 1929.

About  the Geneva Conventions

  • The Geneva Convention finds its origins in 1859 when Henry Dunant, a Genevan businessman, happened to witness the aftermath of a battle during the war for Italian independence. Dunant was horrified by what he saw and over the next few decades dedicated himself to finding a solution to the problem. This led to the formation of the early avatar of the Red Cross and holding of the First Geneva Convention in 1864, the first such attempt to lay down terms for humanitarian behaviour during conflicts. Dunant went on the become the first recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • In 1906, amendments were added to the First Convention. These included enhanced protections for people captured or wounded during battle and for medical personnel and volunteers helping victims of war. After the horrors of the two World Wars, the scope of the Geneva Conventions was increased in 1949 so that non-combatant civilians could also be protected.
  • Other expanded protections stated that Prisoners of War (POWs) must not be tortured or mistreated; get suitable housing and adequate quantities of food; not be discriminated against; be allowed to correspond with family, etc. Besides, the Red Cross can visit POWs and inspect their living conditions.
  • In 1977, two Protocols were added to the Conventions. While Protocol I provide for enhanced protections for military workers, civilians and journalists during armed conflicts and seeks to ban weapons causing “unnecessary suffering”, Protocol II looked closely at the sufferings caused in civil wars.
  • Article 13 of the Geneva Convention states: “Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited….Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.”

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