The most significant regulations regulating the barbarism of war are found in the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols, two international treaties. They guard individuals who do not participate in the conflict (civilians, medical professionals, relief workers), as well as those who are unable to fight (wounded, ill, and shipwrecked soldiers, prisoners of war). The Conventions are binding on all countries that have ratified them, with 196 countries currently being party to the Conventions.
WHAT ARE CIVILIANS?
According to Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions, people who are protected and who find themselves in a conflict with an occupying power but are not citizens are referred to as civilians. However, it does not apply to the following nationals: (1) Those of a State that is not a party to the Convention; and (2) Those of a neutral or belligerent State, so long as that State has regular diplomatic representation in the State whose territory they are in.
However, according to Rule 5. Civilians are persons who are not members of the armed forces. “Any Person not belonging to the armed forces is considered as a civilian and the same applies in case of doubt as to his status. The civilian population comprises all persons who are civilians.” The Fourth Geneva Convention guarantees the free transfer of medicines, medical supplies, religious items, food, clothes, and tonics for youngsters, expectant mothers, and women in labor to civilians of hostile governments. The Protocol broadens the scope of relief efforts by requiring impartial humanitarian relief actions to be carried out without discrimination when the civilian population in a territory controlled by a Party to the conflict is not adequately provided for, subject to agreement among the concerned Parties. These relief efforts may include necessities for the civilian population’s survival, such as food, medication, clothing, bedding, and shelter. This is guaranteed by Article 23, Article 55, Article 89, Article 90, Article 91, and Article 92. The Protocol places special emphasis on the need to protect children from indecent abuse and to treat them with special respect. It has guaranteed the protection of children in Article 24 and Article 50. Considering their age and needs, they should receive the proper help and care. To support orphaned or separated children, actions should be taken to ensure their welfare, religious practices, and education. Measures have to be taken to prevent children under the age of 15 from directly taking part in hostilities. Unless they are allowed to be with their families, children who are detained should be kept apart from adults. Those who committed the crime while under the age of 18 cannot be punished with the death punishment under Article 68. The Geneva Conventions state that women must be given special consideration and protected from all forms of indecent abuse. If detained for reasons connected to an armed conflict, pregnant women and mothers with children who are dependent should have their cases given priority, and even if the death penalty is handed down, it cannot be executed. The Parties to the Conventions and the Protocol are expected to encourage and facilitate the activities of humanitarian organizations involved in this activity as well as to support the reunion of families divided owing to the conflict. Each party to the conflict must specifically permit inquiries from relatives looking to get in touch again and if at all feasible, meet. In Article 25 it is stated that everyone should be able to contact their relatives, no matter where they may be, and get updates from them while on the territory of a Party to the Conflict or on territory that is under its occupation in the form of correspondence. As specified by the Fourth Convention, people who were recognized as stateless people or refugees through international law or the legislation of the country where they seek refuge or resided before the start of the war are regarded as protected persons. Individuals who are subject to the control of a Party to the Conflict and do not receive preferential treatment under the Conventions and Protocol must be administered respectfully and without discrimination, and their fundamental rights, such as their life, health, mental and physical health, dignity as a person, honor, and religious beliefs, must be respected. No matter the justification, it is forbidden to engage in acts like murder, torture, corporal punishment, mutilation, forced prostitution, indecent assault, hostage-taking, collective punishment, or threats to do so. The Parties to the conflict shall also provide the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations with all facilities required for them to carry out their humanitarian duties, including protection and aid for conflict victims. The respective Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations, as well as other National Societies and humanitarian organizations, should also be facilitated in assisting the victims of conflicts.
IMPORTANCE OF PROTECTION OF CIVILIANS
The protection of civilians in times of war is a moral, legal, and strategic imperative. Civilians are often caught in the crossfire of armed conflicts, and their lives and well-being are at risk. Protecting civilians is crucial for upholding the principles of humanity, respect for others, and human rights, even in the midst of armed conflicts. There is a moral imperative to protect civilians in times of war. Civilians are not combatants, and they should not be targeted or harmed. They have a right to life, liberty, and security of a person. They also have a right to necessities such as food, water, shelter, and medical care. States have a legal obligation to protect civilians in times of war. This obligation is enshrined in international law, including the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. These treaties prohibit the targeting of civilians and the use of indiscriminate weapons. They also require states to provide humanitarian assistance to civilians affected by armed conflict. Protecting civilians is also a strategic imperative. When civilians are targeted or harmed, it can undermine public support for the war effort and lead to instability. It can also fuel resentment and anger, which can lead to future violence. By protecting civilians, states can help to build peace and stability.
The Geneva Conventions play a crucial role in protecting civilians in times of war and upholding the principles of humanity, dignity, and respect for human rights. By providing legal standards for the treatment of civilians during armed conflicts, the Geneva Conventions aim to minimize the suffering of civilians, preserve social and cultural norms, and contribute to peacebuilding efforts. All parties to armed conflicts must adhere to their obligations under the Geneva Conventions and ensure that civilians are protected from harm and their rights are respected, even during the war. Efforts to promote awareness, compliance, and enforcement of the Geneva Conventions are essential to prevent and alleviate the suffering of civilians in times of armed conflict and promote a more just and humane world.
Author(s) Name: Kanhaiya