The Geneva Convention 1864, Henry Dunant

The Geneva Convention 1864

The Geneva Convention 1864
The Geneva Convention 1864

Jean-Henri Dunant (1828–1910)

The Geneva Convention was a series of international diplomatic meetings that resulted in a number of agreements, including the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflicts, a set of international laws that govern the treatment of wounded or captured military personnel, medical personnel, and non-military civilians during wars and armed conflicts. The agreements were first signed in 1864 and extensively modified after World War II in 1949.

Dunant, Henry

The basic principles of battle were hit-or-miss for much of humanity’s history, assuming they existed at all. While some civilizations showed sympathy for the ill, helpless, or innocent populations, others tortured or slaughtered anybody who came into contact with them, with no questions asked.

Henry Dunant, a Genevan merchant, went to Emperor Napoleon III’s headquarters in northern Italy in 1859 to seek property rights for a commercial endeavor. When he found himself a witness to the aftermath of the Conflict of Solferino, a bloody battle in the Second War of Italian Independence, he received a lot more than he bargained for.

Dunant was so moved by the horrors he witnessed that in 1862 he published A Memory of Solferino, a first-hand account. But he didn’t simply write about what he saw; he also advocated a solution: all nations join forces to form trained, volunteer relief groups to heal combat casualties and provide humanitarian aid to people afflicted by conflict.

The Red Cross

In Geneva, a committee was formed, which comprised Dunant and an early version of the Red Cross, to look into methods to put Dunant’s ideas into practice.

Delegates from 16 nations, as well as military medical specialists, met in Geneva in October 1863 to debate the details of a wartime humanitarian accord. The First Geneva Convention was named after this meeting and the treaty that resulted from it, which was signed by 12 countries.

Dunant lived and died in near poverty despite playing a key part in the formation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, continuing his work as a fighter for battle-wounded and prisoners of war, and earning the first Nobel Peace Prize.

SEE ALSO:

Peace of Westphalia (1648);

The International Criminal Court (2002).

Sources:

The Geneva Convention 1864

The Law Book: From Hammurabi to the International Criminal Court, 250 Milestones in the History of Law (Sterling Milestones) Hardcover – Illustrated, 22 Oct. 2015, English edition by Michael H. Roffer (Autor)

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