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.
  1. 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.)
  2. 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.
  3. 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 [1]. Advocate ratification of the treaty against landmines in countries that have not yet done so (US, Russia, China, India).
  4. 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.
  5. 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 [2007] 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.)

The Geneva Convention: The Hidden Origins of the Red Cross   By Angela Bennett

(Find this book quickly in bookstores around the world through

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.  Kaplan Publishing (January 5, 2010).

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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
“The minutely detailed chronological narrative embodied in this volume..possesses an awful and powerful cumulative weight.[…]The book is necessary, if grueling, reading for anyone interested in understanding the back story to those terrible photos from Saddam Hussein’s former prison, and abuses at other American detention facilities.” -New York Times Book Review
Greenberg, Karen J., Editor. The Torture Debate in America. Cambridge University Press (November 28, 2005)   0521674611 9780521674614
[from the publisher] As a result of the work assembling the documents, memoranda, and reports that constitute the material in The Torture Papers questions were raised about the rationale underlying the Bush administration’s deci­sion to condone the use of coercive interrogation tech­niques in the interrogation of detainees suspected of terrorist connections. The condoned use of torture in any society is questionable but its use by the United States, a liberal democracy that champions human rights and is a party to international conventions forbidding torture, has sparked an intense debate within America and across the world. The Torture Debate in America captures these arguments with essays from individuals in different disciplines. This volume contains essays covering all sides of the argu­ment, from those who embrace the absolute prohibi­tion of torture to those who see it as a viable option in the war on terror, and with relevant documents complementing the essays.
Grossman, Dave. On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society. Back Bay Books; revised edition (June 22, 2009) ISBN-10: 0316330116   ISBN-13: 978-0316330114
[from the publisher] The good news is that most soldiers are loath to kill. But armies have developed sophisticated ways of overcoming this instinctive aversion. And contemporary civilian society, particularly the media, replicates the army’s conditioning techniques, and, according to Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s thesis, is responsible for our rising rate of murder among the young. Upon its initial publication, ON KILLING was hailed as a landmark study of the techniques the military uses to overcome the powerful reluctance to kill, of how killing affects soldiers, and of the societal implications of escalating violence. Now, Grossman has updated this classic work to include information on 21st-century military conflicts, recent trends in crime, suicide bombings, school shootings, and more. The result is a work certain to be relevant and important for decades to come.
Mayer, Jane. The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals. Anchor; Reprint edition (May 5, 2009)   ISBN-10: 0307456293 ISBN-13: 978-0307456298
[from the publisher] The Dark Side is a dramatic, riveting, and definitive narrative account of how the United States made terrible decisions in the pursuit of terrorists around the world—decisions that not only violated the Constitution, but also hampered the pursuit of Al Qaeda. In spellbinding detail, Jane Mayer relates the impact of these decisions by which key players, namely Vice President Dick Cheney and his powerful, secretive adviser David Addington, exploited September 11 to further a long held agenda to enhance presidential powers to a degree never known in U.S. history, and obliterate Constitutional protections that define the very essence of the American experiment.
 McCoy, Alfred. A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation from the Cold War to the War on Terror. Holt Paperbacks (December 26, 2006) 0805082484 978-0805082487
[from the publisher] In this revelatory account of the CIA’s fifty-year effort to develop new forms of torture, historian Alfred W. McCoy locates the deep roots of recent scandals at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo in a long-standing, covert program of interrogation. A Question of Torture investigates the CIA’s practice of “sensory deprivation” and “self-inflicted pain,” in which techniques including isolation, hooding, hours of standing, and manipulation of time assault the victim’s senses and destroy the basis of personal identity. McCoy traces the spread of these practices across the globe, from Vietnam to Iran to Central America, and argues that after 9/11, psychological torture became the weapon of choice in the CIA’s global prisons, reinforced by “rendition” of detainees to “torture-friendly” countries. Finally, McCoy shows that information extracted by coercion is worthless, making a strong case for the FBI’s legal methods of interrogation. Scrupulously documented and grippingly told, A Question of Torture is a devastating indictment of inhumane practices that have damaged America’s laws, military, and international standing.
Miles, Steven H. Oath Betrayed: America’s Torture Doctors. University of California Press; 1 edition (April 20, 2009) ISBN-10: 0520259688  ISBN-13: 978-0520259683
The news that the United States tortured prisoners in the war on terror has brought shame to the nation, yet little has been written about the doctors and psychologists at these prisons. In Oath Betrayed, medical ethics expert and physician Steven H. Miles tells how doctors, psychologists, and medics cleared prisoners for interrogation, advised and monitored abuse, falsified documents–including death certificates–and were largely silent as the scandal unfolded. This updated and expanded paperback edition gives newly uncovered details about the policies that engage clinicians in torture. It discusses the ongoing furor over psychologists’ participating in interrogations. Most explosively this new edition shows how interrogation psychologists may have moved from information-gathering to coercive experiments, warning all of us about a new direction in U.S. policy and military medicine–a direction that not so long ago was unthinkable.
“This, quite simply, is the most devastating and detailed investigation into a question that has remained a no-no in the current debate on American torture in George Bush’s war on terror: the role of military physicians, nurses and other medical personnel. Dr. Miles writes in a white rage, with great justification–but he lets the facts tell the story.”–Seymour M. Hersh
“Steven Miles has written exactly the book we require on medical complicity in torture. His admirable combination of scholarship and moral passion does great service to the medical profession and to our country.”–Robert Jay Lifton, author of The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide and Home from the War: Vietnam Veterans – Neither Victims nor Executioners
Sands, Philippe. Torture Team: Rumsfeld’s Memo and the Betrayal of American Values. Palgrave Macmillan; Reprint edition (May 12, 2009) 0230614434   978-0230614437
In 2002 Donald Rumsfeld signed a memo that authorized the controversial interrogation practices that later migrated to Guantanamo, Afghanistan, Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere. From a behind-the-scenes vantage point, Phillipe Sands investigates how this memo set the stage for a divergence from the Geneva Convention and the Torture Convention and holds the individual gatekeepers in the Bush administration accountable for their failure to safeguard international law. Cited in Congressional hearings, Torture Team is the “rigorous, honest, devastating” (Vanessa Redgrave) account of high ranking members of the Bush administration’s involvement in authorizing torture and subsequent attempt to cover their tracks.