The Geneva Conventions and the Bush Administration


         Many persons around the world have been wondering how it was possible for the United States of America to seemingly ignore many aspects of the Geneva Conventions in the context of their war against terrorism, particularly in Afghanistan and in Irak.


         Here is a part of the explanation.


         What is called the “Geneva Conventions” is composed of a block of four Conventions written in 1949 and two additional protocols written in 1977. The 1949 conventions deal with the situation of the wounded and sick members of the armed forces; the third treats of the war prisoners and the fourth is concerned with the protection of the civilian populations.  The two 1977 Protocols, which are as voluminous as the 1949 text and which are extremely important, deal with protection of the victims of the international conflicts (Prot. 1) and of the non international conflicts (Prot. 2).


         To this date 191 countries have ratified the 1949 Conventions, 161 have ratified the first 1977 additional Protocol and 156 the second additional Protocol.


         The United States of America ratified the 1949 Conventions on August 2, 1955, but never ratified the 1977 Protocols.


         One may add that the United States signed those two Protocols in 1977, but never ratified them. (So did Iran, Pakistan, Morocco and the Philippines).  A signature without ratification was not binding and was nothing more than a declaration of intention.


         Therefore the United States of America are not bound by the 1977 Protocols of the Geneva Conventions.  One should remember that these 1977 Protocols deal with all the aspects of the current conflicts, in particular the methods and means of warfare, the attitude towards combatants and prisoners-of-war and towards the civilian population.


Note : All the relevant information can be found on the International Red Cross Web Site.