150th anniversary of the original Geneva Convention

The 1864 Geneva Convention stipulated that wounded soldiers and those coming to their aid must not be targeted; they must be spared and protected. © ICRC library / W. Speiser

The 1864 Geneva Convention stipulated that wounded soldiers and those coming to their aid must not be targeted; they must be spared and protected. © ICRC library / W. Speiser

August 22 marked the 150th anniversary of the original Geneva Convention of 1864 – the first major instrument of modern international humanitarian law (IHL).

Since then, more than a hundred treaties of IHL have been adopted with the aim of limiting the impact of war on those who are not (or who are no longer) taking part in hostilities. These include detainees, wounded soldiers, and, of course, civilians.

The principles at the heart of the Geneva Conventions and the law of armed conflict, as IHL is often called here in the US, remain as important and timely today as ever. But the human cost of armed conflicts remains far too high, because IHL is too often violated, leading to unacceptable suffering.

Watch video statements by the ICRC’s Director General, Yves Daccord, and our Director of International Law and Policy, Helen Durham, calling for greater compliance with the laws of war and an end to attacks on civilians, especially health workers and patients.

The world is a particularly violent place right now, and breaches of these laws are all too frequent, while blatant disrespect for the neutral status of health facilities, transport and personnel is all too common in situations like Syria, Gaza or South Sudan.

Read this op-ed co-signed by the President of the ICRC, Peter Maurer, and the Swiss President, Didier Burkhalter, calling for parties to armed conflicts everywhere to spare civilians and show greater respect for IHL.

And finally, we know many of our blog readers are experts in IHL but if you happen to teach it or want a good video to show to lay audiences, check out this new short film: The Rules of War in a Nutshell. It's well done and engaging.

#ICYMI: Check out the photo gallery we posted earlier in the week.