War Time Regulations?
Efforts to moderate the behavior of soldiers are as old as recorded history itself.
In the sixth century BC, the Chinese general and military strategist Sun Tzu suggested
specific restrictions on military conduct, while in 1625, the Dutch theorist Hugo Grotius
called for civilian protections in "On the Law of War and Peace."
Throughout the history of warfare, agreements on the rules of war were defined by
custom or negotiated between generals prior to battle, but did not extend widely beyond
the conflict in question.
The modern Geneva Conventions were adopted in 1949, in the aftermath of World War II,
and expanded their focus to include civilians for the first time, in an attempt to prevent
another outbreak of the "total war" which had wreaked havoc on civilian populations.
Geneva Conventions: establish the standards
of international law for the humanitarian
treatment of war (1894)
Updated over the years as nature of armed
conflicts changed with the beginning of the
Cold War era
Modern armed conflicts: inflicted more
civilians--> a need to provide civilian persons
with protection in time of combat→ resulted in
update to the Hague Conventions of 1899 and
Came about when Henry Dunant visited wounded soldiers after the Battle of Solferino
and was shocked by the lack of facilities, personnel, and medical aid needed to help
these soldiers. He proposed in his book,Memoir of the Solferino, in 1862, on the horrors
A permanent relief agency for humanitarian aid in times of war-->led to the
establishment of the Red Cross in Geneva.
A government treaty recognizing the neutrality of the agency and allowing it to
provide aid in a war zone-->led to the 1864 Geneva Convention, the first codified
international treaty that covered the sick and wounded soldiers in the battlefield.
For both of these accomplishments, Henry Dunant became co-recipient of the first
Nobel Peace Prize in 1901.
The final international tribunal for all issues related to the Geneva Conventions
and other treaties is the United Nations Security Council-->rarely invoked. Most
issues are resolved by regional treaties or by national law.
The most serious crimes are termed grave breaches and provide a legal
definition of a war crime.
Nations who are party to these treaties must enact and enforce legislation
penalizing any of these crimes. They are also obligated to search for persons
alleged to commit these crimes, or ordered them to be committed, and to bring
them to trial regardless of their nationality and regardless of the place where
the crimes took place.
Evaluation of Decisions
● Syria: Divide between anti-Assad rebels and Assad’s
● Germany & Italy: Classist, Non-westerners treated
● Human nature to be biased towards one’s own people.
○ Ethical behaviour is not their main concern
● Countless meaningless deaths
● Tension between groups of people involved - oppressed
● Bilateral relations between countries are strained
Continuation → Man is selfish
Questions To Ponder Over
● Why do people still neglect rules pertaining to the
treatment of POWs although they are established (e.g.
● What good does an established guideline serve if it is
● Are we as human beings stuck in this never-ending
cycle of disrespecting the members in our collective
human race? Is there some way to change
Personal Views - Chris
In fact, it is quite relevant to today: civil wars in Syria-->Red Cross declared it a “non-international
armed conflict”-->Meaning that the violence since early 2011 has crossed a legal threshold, thus
combatants are subject to the Geneva Conventions and can be prosecuted for war crimes.--> still
2002: USA→ violated the convention. According to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the Taliban and al
Qaeda fighters currently being held captive at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay,
Cuba, are not prisoners of war, but "unlawful combatants."
An unlawful combatant is a fighter who does not play by the accepted rules of war, and therefore does
not qualify for the Convention's protections.
Prisoners were hooded and shackled during the 27-hour flight. The U.S. demanded that media not
show photographs of the prisoners in these conditions, explaining, without apparent irony at the
inconsistency, that the photos would deprive the prisoners of their rights under the Geneva
Is the Geneva Convention or any war regulation simply morals on paper, to seemly establish and
enforce human rights in war situations?