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09-08-2019 | Latest News , Africa , Asia & Pacific , Middle East , Europe & Central Asia , The Americas

70 Years of the Geneva Conventions - Seeking to Reduce the Brutality of War


The Geneva Conventions – one of humanity’s most important accomplishments of the last century - turn 70 on August 12. It’s a moment to celebrate all the lives the conventions have helped save, and to remind the world of the importance of protecting people from the worst of warfare.

The Geneva Conventions are at the core of international humanitarian law, the body of law that regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects. They specifically protect people who are not taking part in the hostilities (civilians, health workers and aid workers) and those who are no longer participating in the hostilities, such as wounded, sick and shipwrecked soldiers and prisoners of war.

The Geneva Conventions, which were adopted before 1949 were concerned with combatants only. The events of World War II showed the disastrous consequences of the absence of a convention for the protection of civilians. And so the fourth convention adopted on 12 August 1949, seventy years ago, took this into account and afforded protection to civilians too.

The conventions say that during war:

  • No one shall be subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment;
  • Rape and other forms of sexual violence are prohibited;
  • The wounded and sick must be given medical care;
  • Hospitals and medical personnel must not be attacked;
  • People who are detained must be treated humanely;
  • Family members have the right to know the fate of their relatives; and
  • The dead must be treated with dignity.



00.00 – 00.22              B&W archive footage showing the Geneva Conventions and general archive shots of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

00:22 – 00:51              French prisoners of war receiving Red Cross messages from their families during WWII.

00:52 – 00:16              Repatriation of wounded and sick prisoners of war during WWII.

00:16 – 1:42                Fifty-eight countries signing the fourth Geneva Conventions on  12 August 1949.

01:42 – 02:10              Civilians fleeing Aleppo receiving help at the main collective shelter in Jibreen, southeast of Aleppo in 2016.

02:10 – 02:52              Children in Nigeria being reunited with their families in 2016.

02:52 – 03:31              Detainees in a prison in Madagascar receiving health checks in 2016.

03:31 – 04:04              The Red Cross Movement distributing winter seeds, fertilizers, food and other essential items to people in Rakhine state in 2017.


Length: 04:04

Format: HD H264

Producer / Editor: Christopher Nicholas

Camera: various

ICRC ref: 20190812

Filming date: various

Copyright: ICRC access all


Contact: Anita Dullard, ICRC Tel: +41 79 574 1554

Duration : 4m 4s
Size : 588.3 MB
On Screen Credit: ICRC or logo

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