The four international treaties known as the Geneva Conventions, which were
signed in 1949, lay down the humanitarian ideals and safeguards for wartime
victims. Regardless of their political inclinations, these conventions founded
the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations to aid and care for those
harmed by war and violence.
The agreements also designated a number of actions as war crimes, such as
intentional injury to civilians, the maltreatment of prisoners of war, and the
employment of weapons that inflict needless suffering. These laws safeguard
society's most defenseless citizens and hold people responsible for their
conduct during armed conflict.196 nations have ratified the Geneva Conventions,
which continue to constitute a cornerstone of international humanitarian law.
Brief Introduction To Geneva Conventions And War Crimes
The Geneva Conventions are a group of international treaties that guarantee
legal protection for war victims and forbidding particular types of conduct
The Geneva Conventions characterize war crimes as serious violations of the
Conventions, including violations of some fundamental values, such the
purposeful infliction of pain or humiliation onto an individual or group.
killing prisoners of war, torturing people, mistreating civilians, and other
cruel or inhumane acts committed against people during a war are examples of war
According to international humanitarian law, war crimes are major violations of
the rules and traditions of war. They can lead to personal criminal liability
and are among the most serious crimes according to international law. The main
sources of international humanitarian law are the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and
their Additional Protocols, as well as customary international law.
Examples of war crimes include:
Attacks on civilians or civilian objects:
Deliberate attacks on civilians or civilian objects, such as homes, schools, and
hospitals, are considered war crimes.
Torture and inhumane treatment:
The intentional infliction of severe physical or mental suffering on prisoners
of war, civilians, or other protected persons is a war crime.
Taking and holding hostages is considered a war crime, as it violates the
principles of humanity and the protection of civilians.
Using prohibited weapons:
The use of chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons is prohibited and considered
a war crime under international law.
Forcing civilians to leave their homes or territories is considered a war crime
and violates their right to freedom of movement.
Rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual violence are considered war
crimes and violate the principles of humanity.
The kidnapping and detention of individuals without due process, followed by
their disappearance, is considered a war crime.
International Tribunals Established
To prosecute people for war crimes and bring the guilty to justice,
international criminal courts have been formed, such as the International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International
Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The prosecution of individuals for war
crimes and other heinous crimes in accordance with international law is also
provided for under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The United Nations (UN) Security Council created the International Criminal
Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) as an ad hoc international criminal
tribunal in 1993 to try war crimes committed during the conflicts in the former
Yugoslavia in the 1990s.
Between 1991 and 2001, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes were
all crimes that fell within the purview of the International Criminal Tribunal
for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Ethnic cleansing, mass murder, sexual assault,
and other acts of violence against civilians are some of the most heinous crimes
that the ICTY has prosecuted.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was
established after the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, played a significant
role in establishing international criminal justice as a means of holding people
accountable for grave breaches of international humanitarian law.
The ICTY prosecuted 161 people throughout its existence, including senior
military and political figures, and delivered a number of historic judgments.
The work of the ICTY has aided in the evolution of international criminal law
and helped to clarify what constitutes a war crime.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTY) and the ICTY closed their
doors in 2017 after completing their mandates, and their respective tasks were
passed to the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, which was formed
to carry on their work (ICTR).
In conclusion, the ICTY was essential in ensuring that those responsible for the
worst atrocities committed during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia were
brought to justice and in establishing international criminal justice as a means
of fostering adherence to international humanitarian law and safeguarding victim
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was an international court
formed by the UN in November 1994 to try those accountable for the 1994 Rwandan
Genocide and other significant transgressions of international humanitarian law.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) had its headquarters in
Arusha, Tanzania, and ran until its mandate expired on December 31, 2015, at
which point it was replaced by the Mechanism for International Criminal
Tribunals. The ICTR was the first international criminal tribunal established to
deal with genocide, and it has helped shape international criminal law via its
The treaty that created the International Criminal Court (ICC), a permanent
international tribunal to try people for the most serious international crimes,
including genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, is known as the
Rome Statute. It was approved by 123 states as of 2021 after being adopted on
July 17, 1998, in Rome, Italy.
Crimes committed by individuals on the soil of or by citizens of nations that
have accepted the Rome Statute 11 fall under the purview of the ICC. In addition
to national criminal jurisdictions, the ICC only serves as a prosecutor when
national courts are unable or unwilling to do so. The ICC aims to hold
individuals accountable for the most severe crimes and contribute to the
prevention of such crimes in the future.
International conventions that define the requirements of humanitarian law to be
followed in armed conflict are the 1949 Geneva Conventions and its Additional
Protocols. They outline the duty of the parties to the conflict to uphold these
protections and offer protections for those not participating in the
hostilities, such as civilians, ill and injured soldiers, and prisoners of war.
Murder, torture, and cruel treatment of people who are protected by the Geneva
Conventions are just a few examples of the significant transgressions that
constitute war crimes. The legal foundation that establishes the bounds of
appropriate conduct during armed conflicts is the Geneva Conventions and their
Additional Protocols, and infringement of these articles are punishable as war
crimes. Other international and national criminal institutions, notably the
International Criminal Court, have the authority to bring cases against people
for war crimes, including those committed during armed conflicts.
Briefly stated, the Geneva Conventions set forth the laws of war and safeguard
people during armed conflicts, and violations of these laws are regarded as war
The four international treaties known as the Geneva Conventions were established
in 1949 and offer protection to those who have been injured or killed in armed
conflict. The treaties, which have been accepted by practically all nations in
the world, are regarded as the foundation of contemporary international
Four Geneva Conventions
The four Geneva Conventions are:
The Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and
Sick in Armed Forces in the Field: This convention covers the protection of sick
and wounded soldiers on the battlefield, including the establishment of medical
units and the protection of medical personnel.
The Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and
Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea: This convention covers the
protection of sick, wounded, and shipwrecked military personnel at sea.
The Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War:
This convention covers the treatment of prisoners of war, including the
protection of their lives, dignity, and humane treatment, as well as their
rights to correspondence, food, and medical care.
The Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time
This convention covers the protection of civilians in times of war, including
the protection of their lives, dignity, and humane treatment, as well as their
rights to food, medical care, and protection from violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a free-standing
humanitarian organization, was also created by the Geneva Conventions to oversee
their application and enforcement. The ICRC is in charge of encouraging
adherence to the treaties and aiding armed conflict victims.
Modern international humanitarian law is based on the Geneva Conventions and
their Additional Protocols, which also offer crucial safeguards for armed
conflict victims like civilians, prisoners of war, and injured troops. These
safeguards are intended to lessen the effects of conflict and to guarantee that
people are treated with respect and dignity under any circumstances.
The four international treaties known as the Geneva Conventions were established
in 1949 and offer protection to those who have been injured or killed in armed
conflict. The Geneva Conventions' expanded and clarified provisions are outlined
in two additional treaties known as the Additional Protocols to the Geneva
Conventions, which were signed in 1977.
The First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions (Protocol I), which is
applicable when two or more governments are engaged in armed conflict, addresses
the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. In addition to the
ban on indiscriminate strikes and attacks on civilian targets, it offers extra
protection for people.
When a state engages in armed conflict with non-state armed organizations,
Protocol II, the second additional protocol to the Geneva Conventions, applies.
Protocol II deals with the protection of victims of non-international armed
conflicts. It offers extra safeguards for both civilians and combatants, such as
the ban on attacking civilians and the restriction of particular weapons.
The Additional Protocols are regarded as a component of international law since
they have been ratified by a significant number of governments. They are an
essential part of international humanitarian law and play a significant role in
enhancing and explaining the protections offered by the Geneva Conventions.
The protections offered by the Geneva Conventions are expanded and clarified by
the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, which are extremely
important. They serve to lessen the impacts of war and guarantee that people are
treated with dignity and respect, even in the most challenging of situations.
They provide additional protections for victims of armed conflict, including
civilians, prisoners of war, and injured troops.
Some of the key contributions of the Additional Protocols include:
Expansion of the definition of civilians:
The Additional Protocols expand the definition of civilians to include those not
directly participating in hostilities and provide additional protections for
Prohibition of indiscriminate attacks:
The Protocols prohibit indiscriminate attacks that cause excessive harm to
civilians or civilian objects and require that military targets be distinguished
from civilian objects.
Protection of the environment:
The Protocols prohibit attacks on the natural environment, which can have
long-lasting consequences for civilians and the environment.
Clarification of the rules on the use of weapons:
The Protocols provide additional clarity on the rules governing the use of
weapons, including the prohibition of certain weapons and the requirement that
weapons be used in a manner that minimizes harm to civilians.
Expansion of the protection of prisoners of war:
The Protocols expand the protections afforded to prisoners of war and provide
additional protections for individuals who are captured or detained during an
The Geneva Conventions' provisions are made more thorough, effective, and
applicable in today's armed conflicts in significant part due to the Additional
Protocols. They support respect for people's rights and dignity throughout the
armed conflict and improve the system of international humanitarian law.
In accordance with the Geneva Conventions and the International Court of Justice
(ICJ), major transgressions of international humanitarian law that take place
during armed conflicts are referred to as war crimes.
Under the Geneva Conventions, war crimes include, but are not limited to, the
- Intentionally targeting civilians or civilian objects
- Taking hostages
- Using protected persons (such as prisoners of war or civilians) as human
- Intentionally causing widespread, long-term, and severe damage to the
- Torture, inhumane treatment, or enslavement of protected persons
- Intentionally killing or causing serious injury to a wounded or
Because they go against the fundamental tenets of international humanitarian
law, which aims to safeguard civilians, prisoners of war, and other protected
individuals during armed conflict and lessen the negative effects of war, these
actions are regarded as war crimes.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) is the principal court of the United
Nations. It has jurisdiction over international disputes and renders advisory
opinions on legal issues that have been brought to it by the Security Council,
General Assembly, or other UN bodies. The ICJ has the authority to consider
cases involving war crimes claims in disputes between nations and to issue
decisions that are legally enforceable.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has also been crucial in defining and
interpreting the principles of international humanitarian law. The ICJ has
broadened and defined the definition of war crimes via its jurisprudence, and it
has confirmed that nations have a duty to look into and prosecute those who
commit such crimes.
In conclusion, the definition of war crimes set forth by the Geneva Conventions
and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) demonstrates the international
community's commitment to upholding respect for international humanitarian law
and to protecting civilians during armed conflict.
The important case of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic
Here are some key facts about the trials of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic:
Ratko Mladic was a former general in the Bosnian Serb army, while Goran
Hadzic was a former political leader of the Croatian Serbs.
Both Mladic and Hadzic were charged with war crimes, crimes against
humanity, and genocide committed during the conflicts in the Balkans in the
The trials took place at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former
Yugoslavia (ICTY), which was established by the United Nations to prosecute
war crimes committed during the Balkan conflicts.
Ratko Mladic was found guilty on November 22, 2017, and Goran Hadzic was
found guilty on April 15, 2016.
Both Mladic and Hadzic were sentenced to life in prison for their crimes.
The trials of Ratko Mladic and Goran Hadzic were significant in terms of
holding individuals accountable for the crimes committed during the conflict
in the Balkans, and helped to provide a measure of justice for the victims
and their families.
The ICTY completed its mandate in December 2017 and was closed, but the
legacy of its work continues to shape the international criminal justice
system and serves as a reminder of the need for accountability for serious
The Geneva Conventions are a significant component of international law that
protects people who are involved in armed conflict. Even though there have been
many examples of these principles being broken, it is crucial for governments to
take proactive steps to make sure the Conventions are kept and respected.
This can be accomplished by looking into and prosecuting war crimes as well as
by educating and preparing military and security personnel. By upholding the
Geneva Conventions, we can contribute to reducing the harm that armed conflict
causes to civilians and other non-combatants and guarantee that people are
treated humanely and with dignity, even in the most trying situations.
Written By: Shivam Sharma
, 5th Year , BA.LLB (10th Sem)