The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are core documents of international humanitarian law. Of greatest interest for the developing law of reparations for civilian victims of conflict-related harm is the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Convention ‘Relative to the Protection of civilian Persons in time of War’ (see p.151 of the PDF).

All four of the Geneva Conventions contaun the provision that: “No High Contracting Party shall be allowed to absolve itself or any other High Contracting Party of any liability incurred by itself or by another High Contracting Party in respect of breaches referred to in the preceding Article [enumerating the grave breaches].” (See Arts 51/52/131/148 respectively).

In addition, Article 91 of the 1977 Additional Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions provides that: “The liability of parties to a conflict to pay compensation for violations of IHL committed by persons forming part of their armed forces could entail an obligation to compensate not only States but also individual victims.” (See the Additional Protocol elseweher in this section).

Finally, this article provides a neat summary of the most important provisions of the four Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols.