Geneva Conventions needs urgent upgrading: ICRC

New Delhi, Aug 28 ( The Geneva Conventions, which bind 194 countries to basic humanitarian principles during armed conflicts, “remain relevant” even after 60 years of signing of the protocols but certain aspects of the statute needs an update, says the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

Three Geneva Conventions related to the immunity of medical personnel in a battlefield and the treatment of prisoners of war were revised in August 1949.

The fourth convention that makes protection of civilians obligatory to warring parties was also added then.

Marking the 60 years of the treaty, the global humanitarian agency said the universal applicability of international humanitarian law (IHL) has come under increasing scrutiny and the law is being violated.

“We see violations of IHL on a regular basis in the field, ranging from the mass displacement of civilians to indiscriminate attacks and ill-treatment of prisoners,” ICRC president Jakob Kellenberger said in a statement made available to media here Friday.

“If the existing rules were followed, much of the suffering caused by armed conflict could be avoided. On a more positive note, many of these violations are no loner going unnoticed,” Kellenberger said.

“In recent years, phenomena such as terrorism and asymmetric warfare” have increased the complexity of armed conflicts putting the “relevance of IHL” to scrutiny, the ICRC president said.

“There is no doubt that existing rules of IHL remain relevant and that achieving improved compliance with the law continues to be the main challenge. The ICRC has to examine all possible means of enhancing compliance,” he said.

It was crucial to clarify certain IHL concepts and strengthen certain rules, he said.

“It would also be desirable to further develop certain aspects of the law, particularly those related to non-international armed conflicts.”

The organisation commissioned an opinion poll on what people in war-torn countries think about the conventions. The survey interviewed 4,000 people in Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Georgia, Haiti, Lebanon, Liberia and the Philippines. The study revealed that slightly less than half of the interviewed people knew such treaties existed.