International Committee of the Red Cross
Who we are
What we do
Where we work
War & Law
Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
Treaties and Documents
Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
Chapter IX : Repression of abuses and infractions
The 1949 Geneva Conventions contain, for the first time in international humanitarian law, a comprehensive set of treaty provisions on the suppression of abuses and on penal sanctions. As a delegate to the 1949 Diplomatic Conference stated, the object of these articles ‘is to increase respect for the Conventions, and to strengthen them and the protection they provide by supplying a means of deterring people from violating their provisions and, if necessary, by enforcing obedience to the Conventions.’
This chapter, consisting of six articles, regulates important new issues in addition to provisions which appeared in earlier Conventions. Articles 49 and 50, together with Article 51, are new and have been incorporated in a similar form in all four Geneva Conventions.
The inclusion of Article 49 was thought to provide a watertight mechanism that would ensure the effective prosecution of alleged perpetrators of serious violations of the Conventions. Article 49 obliges States Parties to enact legislation providing effective penal sanctions, and to either prosecute or extradite, regardless of their nationality, alleged offenders who are suspected of having committed one of these grave breaches against persons or property protected by the Convention.
Article 50 is closely linked to Article 49. It contains an exhaustive list of the gravest offences, which States undertake to investigate, and then to either prosecute or extradite alleged offenders.
Article 51 prevents States Parties from absolving themselves or any other State Party of any liability incurred by them or by another State Party in respect of the grave breaches referred to in Article 50. It clarifies the relationship between individual criminal responsibility for grave breaches of the Conventions and State responsibility for acts committed by the armed forces or persons acting under the authority or command of a State in respect of grave breaches.
Article 52 deals with the procedure for enquiries into alleged violations of the Convention; it sets out the legal basis for the establishment of an enquiry procedure when the Parties have diverging views regarding any alleged violations of the Geneva Conventions. It also seeks to ensure that the Parties put an end to and repress alleged violations, if they are established through the enquiry. Article 52 corresponds to Article 30 of the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Wounded and Sick and is common to all four Geneva Conventions.
Articles 53 and 54 deal with the misuse of the distinctive emblem. Article 53 sets out a very broad prohibition on the use of the emblems, their designations, and imitations thereof, by a range of third parties.
Article 54 requires States Parties to take the necessary measures to prevent and repress abuses of the emblems, their designations and other protected signs, as set out in Article 53.
Both Articles 53 and 54 already figured, in a simpler form, in the 1906 and 1929 Geneva Conventions on the Wounded and Sick and only feature in the first of the 1949 Conventions.
- See Fourth Report drawn up by the Special Committee of the Joint Committee, Report on Penal Sanctions,
Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference of Geneva of 1949
, Vol. II-B, p. 114.
- See Second Convention, Articles 50–52; Third Convention, Articles 129–131; and Fourth Convention, Articles 146–148.
- See Second Convention, Article 53; Third Convention, Article 132; and Fourth Convention, Article 149.
- With the exception of Article 54 of the First Convention, which is also reproduced in Article 45 of the Second Convention.
Who we are
What we do
Where we work
War & law
Working for the ICRC
Doing business with the ICRC
Israel and the occupied territories
Global Partnership for Humanitarian Impact and Innovation
Republic of Korea (Korean)
Humanitarian law and policy
L'humanitaire dans tous ses états (French)
Somalia (English and Somali)
© International Committee of the Red Cross