Treaties, States Parties and Commentaries
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Commentary of 1960 


Chapter I is composed of provisions of a general nature which are common to all four Conventions of 1949. Chapter II embarks on the main subject-matter of the Second Convention, and may therefore be considered in practice as the beginning of it. Indeed, it is the most important Chapter, for it embodies the essential idea which was championed by the founders of the Red Cross and, since 1864, has been the focal point of the Geneva law -- namely, that the person of a combatant who has been placed ' hors de combat ' by wounds, sickness or any other cause, such as shipwreck, is from that moment sacred and inviolable. He must be tended with the same care whether he be friend or foe.
In addition to this great principle of immunity, which is the keystone of the Convention and with which the Chapter opens (Article 12 ), there are a number of other rules here, perhaps not always in very logical order, stating the conduct to be observed in regard to the wounded, sick and shipwrecked (1): a definition of the persons protected (Article 13 ), of their status (Article 16 ), the obligation to search for, evacuate and register them, whether alive or dead (Articles 18 to 20), together with the provisions relating to their handing over to a belligerent (Article 14 ), to the treatment to be given them if they are picked up by a neutral warship (Article 15 ) or disembarked in a neutral port (Article 17 ), and lastly to possible appeals to the charity of neutral vessels (Article 21 ).
This Chapter contains numerous additions to the corresponding provisions in the Tenth Hague Convention of 1907 (2); certain [p.84] details have been clarified and on some points rather important changes have been made. The purpose of all these modifications is to afford increased protection to the victims of conflicts, similar to that provided by the First Convention in the case of war on land, and also so far as possible to define the status of protected persons in all circumstances.
In the first draft revision of the 1907 Convention (prepared in 1937), the present Chapter was entitled "Wounded and sick" -- exactly as in the First Convention. The International Committee of the Red Cross subsequently proposed the addition of the word "shipwrecked", pointing out that in the Second Convention the fate of the shipwrecked is closely linked to that of the wounded and sick, since the same provisions are applicable to all three categories. With this amendment, the title gives a more accurate indication of the contents of the Chapter.

* (1) [(1) p.83] For brevity and to avoid repeating the phrase
"wounded, sick or shipwrecked" the word "wounded" or
"shipwrecked" will sometimes be used alone, it being
understood that the three categories are always covered;

(2) [(2) p.83] i.e. Articles 11 to 17 and Article 9. Those
provisions were reproduced, without substantial amendment,
in Articles 81 to 87 of the 1913 Oxford Manual of the
Institute of International Law;