ELi5: what is the Geneva convention

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I always hear about it but I genuinely do not know what it is. I tried looking it up but I still don’t understand..

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4 Answers

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s a bunch of rules for armed conflict that a bunch (but not all) countries agreed to a while ago. It determines what is and isn’t “permissible” in war with reference to non-combatants: who is and isn’t a combatant, and what is considered acceptable treatment for captured or wounded enemy personnel and civilians. Technically there are actually several Geneva conventions, but most people just use the phrase as a singular.

The idea is that we want to allow soldiers to surrender, and we don’t want it to be okay to kill civilians beyond what is absolutely necessary. If countries agree to these, it will make the hell that is war slightly less hellish (still bad though).

They aren’t directly enforced in wartime or anything – there’s no Geneva cops that will pull you over and give you a ticket for not following them because nobody really has that power over a country. That said, a country not following them is a good way to turn international opinion against it, which will cause problems after the war, or during the war if it goes on long enough.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The Geneva Conventions are a series of treaties about how militaries should act during wars (and war-like conflicts). Major topics covered include:

* Who, if captured by their enemy, must be considered a prisoner of war— as opposed to a criminal doing illegal violence— and how must such prisoners of war be treated?

* Under what circumstances may fighters damage or destroy civilian property or infrastructure? Short answer: only when, and to the extent that, the damage or destruction serves a military purpose, which does not include denying civilians the use of the property or infrastructure.

* Is pillaging allowed? (No.)

* Some people in a war zone, who belong to one side’s armed forces, like doctors or chaplains, are not participating in the fighting, and should not be attacked; how can they be identified and protected?

Anonymous 0 Comments

In a sentence: It’s a few big text blocks made after world war 2 to define and give rights to people caught in a war zone that aren’t actively fighting soldiers.

The documents say what should be very obvious things like:

Take wounded soldiers as prisoners of war instead of killing them.

Don’t torture prisoners of war.

Don’t intentionally kill medics, civilians, messengers, etc

As you are probably able to guess, war is never ethical, and conflicting countries will do whatever they can to gain an advantage. If I had to guess, the fact that these points are so rarely followed is probably the reason people joke about something “violating the Geneva convention”. It is ultimately a pointless piece of lip service.

Anonymous 0 Comments

One of the problems when fighting wars is that you want to retain some morality, but not if it gives your enemy an advantage.

So lets say you don’t want to shoot ambulances for moral reasons, but you also don’t want the enemy to just use ambulances as troop or weapon transportation.

The way to get around this would be to agree with the enemy that if they don’t use ambulances to transport weapons, you won’t shoot ambulances. And they agree to the same thing. Obviously if you catch the enemy using ambulances to transport weapons, you are no longer obligated to hold your fire.

The Geneva convention is a giant list of things like this relating to the treatment of non combatants, and who is a non combatant etc.

Most nations on earth have already signed at least some of it, meaning if they go to war they have already agreed in advance to, for example, not move weapons in ambulances and not shoot ambulances.

There are equivalent, somewhat less signed conventions that cover things like weapons (for example the convention on cluster munitions, or the Hague convention, or the Geneva protocol). If you ever see someone saying “This weapon violates the Geneva convention” they are lying. It might violate *a different convention that the involved parties may or may not be signatures to*, but the Geneva convention cares only about *who* you target, not what you target them *with*.