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First Geneva Convention

From lawbrain.com

The first Geneva Convention, also known as the Geneva Convention of 1864, was written to protect the sick and wounded in the time of war. It was signed into law on August 22, 1864 following the Geneva Conference of 1863 which was convened for the purpose of adopting a convention for the amelioration of the condition of individuals wounded in war.[1]

The First Geneva Convention laid the groundwork for modern international humanitarian law.



This first Geneva Convention was inspired by the observations Henri Dunant, who observed the effects of war on fallen soldiers after the battle of Solferino in 1859 in the plain of Normandia, north of Italia.[2] He went on to found the Red Cross to ensure that sick or wounded combatants receive medical care and treatment. Since that time, the Red Cross has played an integral part in the drafting and enforcement of the Geneva Conventions.

Main Principles

The First Geneva Convention was signed following the Geneva Conference of 1863 which was attended by governments of European and America, totalling 16 attendees.

The main principles of the First Geneva Convention were three-fold: (1) provide relief to wounded soldiers without distinction to nationality; (2) ensure neutrality of medical care, medical establishment, and medical units for fallen wounded soldiers; and (3) recognize the emblem of the International Red Cross as representing a neutral entity.[3]

Successive Conventions and Treaties

The First Geneva Convention was a precursor to successive acts of legislation related to humanitarian law. These included the 1899 treaties, concerning asphyxiating gases and expanding bullets. In 1907, 13 separate treaties were signed, followed in 1925 by the Geneva Gas Protocol, which prohibited the use of poison gas and the practice of bacteriological warfare.

In 1929, two more Geneva Conventions dealt with the treatment of the wounded and prisoners of war. In 1949, four Geneva Conventions extended protections to those shipwrecked at sea and to civilians.

The Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property was signed in 1954, the United Nations Convention on Military or Any Other Hostile Use of Environmental Techniques followed in 1977, together with two Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, extending their protections to civil wars.

There is no one "Geneva Convention." Like any other body of law, the laws of war have been assembled piecemeal, and are, in fact, still under construction.


  1. http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/INTRO/120?OpenDocument
  2. http://www.redcross.lv/en/conventions.htm
  3. http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/INTRO/120?OpenDocument

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