IRRC No. 5

The urgent need to apply the rules of humanitarian law to so-called internal armed conflicts

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The 12th of August 1949 is without doubt one of the most important dates in humanitarian law and in the development of the idea of the protection of man. It was then that four new Conventions were adopted in Geneva relative to the protection of victims of armed conflicts. In so far as they express general condemnation of war crimes committed during the Second World War, as well as the determination to prevent their recurrence in any possible sort of future conflict, the Geneva Conventions must be regarded as a bastion for the protection of all victims of armed conflict as well as a serious warning to all those who might be disposed to make a misuse of force or violate humanitarian principles. This great victory of the humanitarian spirit and of the principles which it inspires, by virtue of which one should not only avoid inflicting suffering on those who are deprived of protection or on non-combatants, but one should also accord them assistance and care for them if necessary, is due to a large extent to the Red Cross. The forces of progress have given their support to this idea and have made possible its realization within the framework of the International Conventions of the Red Cross. The new Geneva Conventions, which in the evolution of humanitarian law at present represent a decisive phase in a given sector, constitute an extremely solid and complete legal code which has been meticulously drawn up and which is both logical and coherent.

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