Edited by Elliott Adams and Dennis Rivers
in cooperation with www.SupportGenevaConventions.org
MAY 2015 — FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk tells the dramatic story of the fight over the CIA’s controversial interrogation methods, widely criticized as torture. Based on recently declassified documents and interviews with key political leaders and CIA insiders, the film investigates what the CIA did — and whether it worked. Click for video.
Elliott Adams (Veterans for Peace) discusses
International Humanitarian Law in an Era of Torture and Drones (7/24/2014)
You are invited to become a citizen advocate for International Humanitarian Law. EarthCitizens.net provides information and welcomes your participation, expressions of concern, and advocacy regarding injury to civilians in the conduct of war, and about the treatment of wartime detainees and prisoners, including citizens of one’s own country, imprisoned within one’s own country in the name of national security. These concerns, defined by the Geneva Conventions (click here for brief summary) and codified/extended over 140 years, continue to be the focus of medical aid societies around the world flying the Red Cross, Red Crescent (Muslim) and Red Crystal (universal) flags. These compassionate concerns about restraining the violence of war have also been carried forward by a new generation of international treaties, including
The total body of law represented by The Geneva Conventions, the Nuremberg Principles, and these more recent treaties is now referred to as “International Humanitarian Law” (IHL). (See our list and summary.) The issues raised by IHL and the above treaties have become even more pressing with the advent of drone warfare and its attendant civilian casualties.
Unfortunately for everyone in the world, great documents such as the Geneva Conventions and these more recent treaties do not automatically implement themselves. And several of the largest countries on the planet have not yet ratified all the treaties mentioned above. The horrific tragedies unfolding in Iraq, Sudan and other places convince us that only when a great many people know about these treaties, champion their observance, and press public officials to do the same on an ongoing basis, will governments actually implement the principles and restraints contained in the treaties. This is the great work we invite you to join as a citizen advocate.What are the Geneva Conventions? The Geneva Conventions are a series of international treaties intended to limit the violence of war and protect civilians, prisoners and wounded soldiers in time of war and civil conflict. For example, wounded soldiers must be cared for regardless of which side they were fighting for. Prisoners of war may not be killed or mistreated. Detainees may not be tortured to extract information from them. Attacks must focus on military targets only. The first Geneva Convention treaty was signed in 1864, and the treaty has been renegotiated and expanded several times since then, most recently in 1949 and 1977. The United States is a signatory to the Geneva Conventions, and therefore they have the force of law for U.S. citizens. (for more information, please see the Summary at the bottom of this page, the References Page or click here for an excellent summary from the Pleace Pledge Union ) How did the Geneva Conventions get started? In June of 1859, Jean Henri Dunant, a devout Swiss businessman, came upon the aftermath of the battle of Solferino (Italy). Approximately 30,000 wounded troops had been abandoned by their armies and left to die on what had been the battlefield. Deeply moved by the plight of the dying soldiers, Dunant organized a makeshift field hospital with the help of women from nearby towns, and spent his own money to buy needed supplies. Out of this experience grew both the Red Cross and the Geneva Conventions. In 1901, Dunant was awarded the first-ever Nobel Peace Prize for his role in founding the International Red Cross movement and initiating the first Geneva Convention treaty. (for more information, see the Wikipedia article about Henri Dunant) Why are the Geneva Conventions and related IHL treaties important today? First, war has changed dramatically in the last century and is continuing to change today. Recent studies indicate that ninety percent of the casualties of modern wars are civilians. Weapons such as landmines, cluster bombs and depleted uranium anti-tank shells will continue to injure and poison civilians for many decades, and even centuries, after the armies have gone home. People of goodwill around the world need to make a conscious effort to implement the principles of International Humanitarian Law, or even the modest protections they seek to provide will be lost and the world will become a more brutal place than it already is. Second, war tends to bring out the worst in people, as recent attacks on civilians and the torturing to death of prisoners illustrates. Even those who accept war as a legitimate action have many reasons to put restraints on the conduct of war, the treatment of prisoners and the injuring of civilians. Torture destroys the minds and emotions of those who inflict it, so everyone needs to abide by the Geneva Conventions in order to preserve their own sanity. What can I do? A Five Point Program of Action You can help as an individual by asking your highest government officials (President, Senators and Representatives in the U.S.) to take the following five steps. You can help as a group by having your civic group or religious community pass formal resolutions in favor of the following steps and then informing both government officials and the media of such resolutions of support.
- Reaffirmation: press to have your country reaffirm the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and treat detainees, civilian or military, in accordance with their standards. (This means no torture of any person under any circumstances.)
- A continuing dialogue about implementation: talk to public officials about taking specific steps to ensure that the Geneva Conventions and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are complied with by every government agency, employee, contractor, and member of the armed forces, without exception.
- Extensions and ratifications: extend the Geneva Conventions and related treaties to ban the use of new weapons that do not discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, such as depleted uranium munitions and cluster bombs . Advocate ratification of the treaty against landmines in countries that have not yet done so (US, Russia, China, India).
- Study: make study of the Geneva Conventions and the evolving treaties of international humanitarian law a required part of high school civics courses, college study and military training in your country.
- Bearing Witness: participate in personal acts of bearing witness, speaking out, personal penance, and remembrance regarding those who have, at the hands of one’s own government, …….…died under interrogation, …….…been imprisoned and tortured to extract “confessions,” and …….…been killed or wounded by weapons of indiscriminate destructiveness,
An Overview of the Geneva Conventions
A summary of the basic rules of international humanitarian law in armed conflicts, as codified by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. Compiled by Dennis Rivers.
1. Persons no longer fighting (hors de combat) and those who do not take a direct part in hostilities are entitled to respect for their lives and their moral and physical integrity. They shall in all circumstances be protected and treated humanely without any adverse distinction.
2. It is forbidden to kill or injure an enemy who surrenders, or who is no longer fighting (hors de combat) due to injury, illness or changed circumstances that render persons incapable of fighting (such as sailors who have abandoned ship in the open sea).
3. The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. Protection of the wounded and sick shall be extended to cover medical personnel, establishments, transports and equipment. The emblems of the red cross, red crescent and red crystal  are the signs of such protection and must be respected.
4. Captured combatants and civilians under the authority of an adverse party are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights and convictions. They shall be protected against all acts of violence and reprisals. They shall have the right to correspond with their families and to receive relief.
5. Everyone shall be entitled to benefit from fundamental judicial guarantees. No one shall be held responsible for an act they have not committed. No one shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, corporal punishment or cruel or degrading treatment.
6. Parties to a conflict and members of their armed forces do not have an unlimited choice of methods and means of warfare. It is prohibited to employ weapons or methods of warfare of a nature to cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering. [Editor’s note: This is very clearly seen in the cases of land mines and cluster munitions, which continue to injure and kill civilians for many years, even decades, after the combatants have left the field. There are new international treaties prohibiting both land mines and cluster weapons, but several large countries have not yet joined them.]
7. Parties to a conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants in order to spare civilian population and property. Neither the civilian population as such nor civilian persons shall be the object of attack. Attacks shall be directed solely against military objectives.
Edited for presentation on this site by Dennis Rivers from material in the publications of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Please note, this is a general summary of very detailed treaty provisions including over 600 paragraphs. Please click here for a more extended summary from the ICRC web site. Latest revision: 11/22/07
Elliot Adams on the need to close GITMO, and how to do it. (11/9/2013)
This is the beginning of an annotated bibliography of works covering areas of concern addressed by the IHL and the Geneva Conventions. At the present time we have listed mostly books dealing with the torture issue, which is one of the most pressing human rights issues of our time.. As time allows, we will include other areas. If you have suggestions for works that should be included here, please send them to me using our Contact page. (Some books shown below include links to Global-Find-A-Book, owned by Dennis Rivers. Global-Find-A-Book provides, for a given book, purchase links to online bookstores around the world, so that people can save on postage by buying a book from a bookseller in or near their own country.)
(Find this book quickly in bookstores around the world through . Kaplan Publishing (January 5, 2010).
(Find this book quickly in bookstores around the world through The Torture Papers document the so-called ‘torture memos’ and reports which US government officials wrote to prepare the way for, and to document, coercive interrogation and torture in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Abu Ghraib. These documents present for the first time a compilation of materials that prior to publication have existed only piecemeal in the public domain. The Bush Administration, concerned about the legality of harsh interrogation techniques, understood the need to establish a legally viable argument to justify such procedures. The memos and reports document the systematic attempt of the US Government to prepare the way for torture techniques and coercive interrogation practices, forbidden under international law, with the express intent of evading legal punishment in the aftermath of any discovery of these practices and policies.
“The Torture Papers: The Road to Abu Ghraib thoroughly documents repeated and shocking perversions of justice. The torture of prisoners became standard practice as the internationally accepted tenets of the Geneva Convention were bypassed and ignored. This is not a collection of complex legalese but pages where a clear episodic story unfolds free of bias and spin. The documents and their authors speak for themselves; key individuals approved torture as a coercive interrogation technique while others, namely Secretary of State Colin Powell, strongly opposed it. This is required reading for everyone concerned with fairness, justice, and difficult choices made under the pressures of our post 9/11 world.” -Nadine Strossen, President, American Civil Liberties Union
“The Torture Papers may well be the most important and damning set of documents exposing U.S. government lawlessness ever published. Each page tells the story of U.S. leaders consciously willing to ignore the fundamental protections that guarantee all of us our humanity. I fear for our future. Read these pages and weep for our country, the rule of law and victims of torture everywhere.” -Michael Ratner, President, Center for Constitutional Rights