Summary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Their Additional Protocols

Scholarly Article Excerpt

International humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules which seek for humanitarian reasons to limit the effects of armed conflict. IHL protects persons who are not or who are no longer participating in hostilities and it restricts means and methods of warfare. IHL is also known as the law of war and the law of armed conflict.

A major part of international humanitarian law is contained in the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 that have been adopted by all nations in the world. The Conventions have been expanded and supplemented by three further agreements: the Additional Protocols I & II of 1977, relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts, and the 2005 Additional Protocol III, relating to the adoption of an additional distinctive emblem.

These Conventions provide specific rules to safeguard combatants, or members of the armed forces, who are wounded, sick or shipwrecked, prisoners of war, and civilians as well as medical personnel, military chaplains, and civilian support workers of the military.


Summary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Their Additional Protocols
Summary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Their Additional Protocols
(PDF, 239KB)
International Humanitarian Law | January 2013

Author Information

The International Committee of the Red Cross, established in 1863, works worldwide to provide humanitarian help for people affected by conflict and armed violence and to promote the laws that protect victims of war. An independent and neutral organization, its mandate stems essentially from the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Based in Geneva, Switzerland, it employs some 12,000 people in 80 countries; it is financed mainly by voluntary donations from governments and from national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.