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Convention (I) for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
Chapter I : General provisions
The 1949 Geneva Conventions contain certain provisions of a general character and others which are more limited in their application. In the 1929 Geneva Convention on the Wounded and Sick, as in the earlier Conventions, these two kinds of provisions were intermingled. But when it was proposed to revise the Conventions, it was thought necessary to arrange the provisions methodically. Accordingly, the ICRC placed at the beginning of each of the four draft conventions the principal provisions of a general character, in particular those which enunciated fundamental principles to be repeated in the four conventions. This more logical arrangement had the advantage of preparing the way for the combination of the four conventions in a single instrument, which was contemplated at the time.
The suggested arrangement was adopted by the 1948 International Conference of the Red Cross in Stockholm, and later by the Diplomatic Conference.
Most of the articles in the present chapter are accordingly to be found in identical, or slightly modified, form in the three other Conventions. As a result, the commentaries on these provisions are also largely identical, except with regard to their specific application in the context of a particular Convention.
The articles in this chapter have come to be known as the ‘common articles’ of the Geneva Conventions. They are, first and foremost:
– common Article 1, on the obligation to respect and ensure respect for the Convention;
– common Article 2, setting out the scope of application of the Convention in respect of international armed conflict and occupation; and
– common Article 3, concerning non-international armed conflict.
Articles 4 and 5 are also included in this chapter although they are not common as such: Article 4 deals with the application of the Convention by neutral Powers, and Article 5 with the duration of application of the Convention.
Because the Fourth Convention has an additional separate provision in Article 6, from this article onwards the common articles have the same numbering in the first three Conventions, with the corresponding article in the Fourth Convention being one digit higher. Therefore, the remaining articles in this chapter are:
– common Article 6 (Article 7 in the Fourth Convention), dealing with the special agreements that the High Contracting Parties may conclude;
– common Article 7 (Article 8 in the Fourth Convention), containing the principle of non-renunciation of rights;
– common Article 8 (Article 9 in the Fourth Convention), regulating the role of the Protecting Powers;
– common Article 9 (Article 10 in the Fourth Convention), dealing with the activities of the ICRC or other impartial humanitarian organizations;
– common Article 10 (Article 11 in the Fourth Convention), on appointing a substitute for the Protecting Powers; and
– common Article 11 (Article 12 in the Fourth Convention), setting out the conciliation procedure under the Conventions.
There are also common articles at the end of the Convention, in particular in Chapter VIII (Execution of the Convention) and Chapter IX (Repression of abuses and infractions), as well as the final provisions. For more details, see the introductions to those chapters.
Report of the Conference of Government Experts of 1947
, p. 332, and
Draft Conventions submitted to the 1948 Stockholm Conference
, p. 4.
- In the Second Convention, Article 4 deals with the field of application of the Convention, whereas Article 5 deals with the application of the Convention by neutral Powers. In the Third Convention, Article 4 sets out the list of persons entitled to prisoner-of-war status or treatment, and Article 5 regulates the beginning and end of application of the Convention. In the Fourth Convention, Article 4 defines the persons protected by the Convention, and Article 5 sets out some very limited derogations from the rights and privileges afforded under the Convention.
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