Above: photograph of the first Geneva Convention.
The original title of the first “Geneva Convention” is Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field. It has ten articles and one sole objective: to limit the suffering caused by war. Article 7 provides for the designation of the red cross as a protective emblem.
This seminal document laid the foundations of international humanitarian law.
Twelve states signed the Convention in Geneva on August 22, 1864, under the auspices of Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross. It was revised and supplemented on two occasions before the adoption, in 1949, of the four Geneva Conventions currently in force. Additional Protocols were added to those Conventions in 1977 and in 2005. Switzerland is the depository of those treaties.
As of 2013, 194 States are party to the Geneva Conventions of August 12, 1949.
International humanitarian law comprises conventions and customs whose aim is to ensure a protective framework for humanitarian action in periods of international and non-international armed conflict. It also makes it possible to restrict, by law, the methods of warfare used by the combatants. The most important texts include the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (1925); the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948); the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction, also referred to as the Ottawa Convention (1997).
The original signatories of the first Geneva Conventon were Baden, Belgium, Denmark, France, Hesse, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Spain, Switzerland, and Württemberg.
As of February 2015, the United States of America has not ratified the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction.