In central Illinois, we have employees of multi-national corporations, military personnel and private citizens who frequently travel internationally. Today, the potential for someone we know or love to be affected by armed conflict is a greater possibility than ever before. It’s important, therefore, that we be familiar with the principles of International Humanitarian Law, the Geneva Conventions and other bodies of international law that protect lives and alleviate suffering around the world.
The Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949, which have been signed by every nation in the world, provide the legal framework for International Humanitarian Law (IHL). During armed conflict, IHL provides the basis for humane treatment of sick and wounded combatants on land and sea, prisoners of war and civilians. IHL also protects medical personnel, facilities and vehicles, journalists and humanitarian aid workers.
During times of armed conflict, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has the responsibility for providing humanitarian assistance to victims of the hostilities. In 2006, ICRC delegations visited 478,000 detainees and POWs interned in more than 2,577 places of detention in 71 different countries. These neutral and impartial delegations make repeated visits and provide confidential reports to the detaining authorities to ensure the human dignity and humane treatment of those in need.
The ICRC works to ensure that basic human needs are met and protections are afforded to all persons affected by the hostilities. Such basic protections include humane treatment, adequate food and clothing, access to medical care and the right to communicate with their families. The ICRC transmits messages between family members and POWs, reunites families separated by armed conflict, and provides shelter, food and medical assistance to displaced persons. It also works with nation states to ensure respect for and compliance with IHL.
Every nation that has signed the Geneva Conventions is mandated to educate its citizens about the principles and protections offered by International Humanitarian Law. In the United States, the responsibility for educating non-military persons about IHL has been given to the American Red Cross.
Interested in learning more about International Humanitarian Law?
The program Humanity in the Midst of War: An Introduction to International Humanitarian Law explains key elements, applications and the relevance of IHL and its important contribution to a more peaceful world. Protection, respect for life and property, and human dignity are recurrent themes of this course, as these concepts are the essence of IHL and the hope for a more peaceful world. This program introduces participants to the complex field of international humanitarian law, which is as timely as today’s headlines and as relevant as it was when the Geneva Conventions were first developed over a century ago.
This half-day program is offered free of charge and presented by nationally-trained instructors through your local American Red Cross chapter. The Red Cross would be pleased to host your group at its building or provide an instructor at a site of your choosing to better accommodate your needs. Shorter presentations can be tailored to meet the needs of your business or community organization. If you are interested in learning more about IHL and understanding your rights under the Geneva Conventions, please contact the Red Cross to schedule a presentation or register to attend the class. IBI