The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols were signed in 1949. These are international treaties that place limits and protections in times of armed conflict. They protect people not taking part or no longer taking part in the fighting such as; civilians; medical workers; aid workers; wounded, sick, and shipwrecked troops; and prisoners of war. They also place limits on the means and methods of warfare for those fighting in armed conflict.
These treaties form the basis of International Humanitarian Law.
There are four Geneva Conventions and two Additional Protocols:
- The First Geneva Convention protects wounded and sick soldiers on land during war.
- The Second Geneva Convention protects wounded, sick, and shipwrecked military personnel at sea during war.
- The Third Geneva Convention applies to prisoners of war.
- The Fourth Geneva Convention protects civilians, including those in occupied territory.
- Additional Protocol I strengthens the protection of victims of international armed conflicts
- Additional Protocol II strengthens the protection of victims in non-international armed conflicts
- Additional Protocol III created the additional emblem of the Red Crystal (which has the same status as the Red Cross and the Red Crescent emblems)
You can find an updated commentary of the Geneva Conventions here.
Other sources of IHL
There are other treaties addressing specific issues within armed conflict and placing limits certain weapons. A full list of these can be found in this ICRC Database.
Customary laws and other general principles of law also form part of IHL.
Last updated April 2023