The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary

ISBN : 9780199675449

Andrew Clapham; Paola Gaeta; Marco Sassoli
1760 Pages
180 x 247 mm
Pub date
Oct 2015
Oxford Commentaries on International Law
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Winner of the 2017 ASIL Certificate of Merit for High Technical Craftsmanship and Utility to Practicing Lawyers and Scholars

  • The first commentary in over fifty years on the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, the cornerstones of international humanitarian law
  • Provides an unmatched analysis of each key issue dealt with by the Geneva Conventions by over sixty international law experts
  • Uniquely interprets and explains the Conventions' provisions as they have practically operated, with reference to judicial decisions, state practice, and the Conventions' interaction with human rights law and international criminal law
  • Includes thought-provoking cross-cutting chapters addressing issues such as the transnational nature of conflicts and the geographical scope of the Conventions

The four Geneva Conventions, adopted in 1949, remain the fundamental basis of contemporary international humanitarian law. They protect the wounded and sick on the battlefield, those wounded, sick or shipwrecked at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians in time of war. However, since they were adopted warfare has changed considerably. In this groundbreaking commentary over sixty international law experts investigate the application of the Geneva Conventions and explain how they should be interpreted today. It places the Conventions in the light of the developing obligations imposed by international law on states, armed groups, and individuals, most notably through international human rights law and international criminal law. 
The context in which the Conventions are to be applied and interpreted has changed considerably since they were first written. The borderline between international and non-international armed conflicts is not as clear-cut as was once thought, and is complicated further by the use of armed force mandated by the United Nations and the complex mixed and transnational nature of certain non-international armed conflicts. The influence of other developing branches of international law, such as human rights law and refugee law has been considerable. The development of international criminal law has breathed new life into multiple provisions of the Geneva Conventions. This commentary adopts a thematic approach to provide detailed analysis of each key issue dealt with by the Conventions, taking into account both judicial decisions and state practice. Cross-cutting chapters on issues such as transnational conflicts and the geographical scope of the Conventions also give readers a full understanding of the meaning of the Geneva Conventions in their contemporary context. Prepared under the auspices of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, this commentary on four of the most important treaties in international law is unmissable for anyone working in or studying situations of armed conflicts.


PART I Cross-Cutting Issues and Common Provisions
Section A - Cross-Cutting Issues
1: The Concept of International Armed Conflict, Andrew Clapham
2: The Applicability of the Conventions to Transnational and Mixed Conflicts, Marko Milanovic
3: The Temporal Scope of Application of the Conventions, Gabriella Venturini
4: The Geographical Scope of Application of the Conventions, Katja Schoberl
5: Rights, Powers and Obligations of Neutral Powers under the Conventions, Yves Sandoz
Section B - Common Provisions
Sub-Section 1 - General
6: The Obligation to Respect and to Ensure Respect for the Conventions, Robin Geiß
7: Special Agreements in International Armed Conflicts, Stuart Casey-Maslen
8: Non Renunciation of the Rights Provided by the Conventions, Pierre d'Argent
9: Final Provisions, Including the Martens Clause, Giovanni Distefano & Etienne Henry
Sub-Section 2 - Special Rules
10: The Principle of Non-Discrimination, Gabor Rona & Robert J. McGuire
11: Hospitals, Elzbieta Mikos-Skuza
12: Humanitarian Assistance, Flavia Lattanzi
13: Search for Missing Persons, Anna Petrig
14: The Dead, Daniela Gavshon
15: Taking of Hostages, David Tuck
16: Torture, Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Manfred Nowak & Ralph Janik
17: Rape and Other Sexual Violence, Patricia Viseur Sellers and Indira Rosenthal
18: Protected Areas, Natalino Ronzitti
Sub-Section 3 - Common Article 3
19: The Concept of Non-International Armed Conflict, Lindsay Moir
20: The Addressees of Common Article 3, Sandesh Sivakumaran
21: The Beneficiaries of the Rights Stemming from Common Article 3, Jann K. Kleffner
22: Murder in Common Article 3, Sarah Knuckey
23: Judicial Guarantees, Louise Doswald-Beck
24: The Right of Initiative of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Nishat Nishat
25: Applicability of the Conventions by means of Ad Hoc Agreements, Luisa Vierucci
Section C - Ensuring Compliance with the Conventions
26: The Role of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Steven R. Ratner & Rotem Giladi
27: Protecting Powers, Robert Kolb
28: Good Offices, Conciliation, and Enquiry, Theo Boutruche
29: Prohibition of Reprisals, Jerôme de Hemptinne
30: Dissemination of the Conventions, Including in Time of Armed Conflict, Elzbieta Mikos-Skuza
31: Grave Breaches of the Geneva Conventions, Paola Gaeta
32: Domestic Implementation, Andreas R. Ziegler & Stefan Wehrenberg
Section D - The Geneva Conventions in Context
33: The Universality of the Geneva Conventions, Frédéric Mégret
34: Relationship with Prior and Subsequent Treaties and Conventions, Paolo Benvenuti
35: The Complex Relationship between the 1949 Geneva Conventions and International Human Rights Law, Andrew Clapham
36: The Interplay Between the Geneva Conventions and International Criminal Law, Paola Gaeta
PART II - Specific Issues and Regimes
Section A - Geneva Conventions I and II
37: Who is Wounded and Sick?, Annyssa Bellal
38: Who is Shipwrecked?, Steven Haines
39: The Obligations to Respect, Protect, Collect and Care for the Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked, Gilles Giacca
40: The Status, Rights, and Obligations of Medical and Religious Personnel, Stuart Casey-Maslen
41: Buildings, Material and Transports, Katja Schöberl
42: Loss of Protection, Tom Haeck
43: The Use of the Emblem, Antoine A. Bouvier
Section B - Geneva Convention III
44: Who is a Prisoner of War?, Sean Watts
45: Status and Treatment of Those Who Do Not Fulfill the Conditions for Prisoner of War Status, Laura M. Olson
46: Determination of Prisoner of War Status, Marie-Louise Tougas
47: Evacuation and Transfer of Prisoners of War, Keiichiro Okimoto
48: Treatment of Prisoners of War, Silvia Sanna
49: Relations with the Outside World, Sharon Weill
50: Penal or Diciplinary Proceedings Brought against a Prisoner of War, Peter Rowe
51: Release, Accommodation in Neutral Countries, and Repatriation of Prisoners of War, Marco Sassòli
Section C - Geneva Convention IV
Sub-Section 1 - General
52: The Structure of Geneva Convention IV and the Resulting Gaps in that Convention, Nishat Nishat
53: Maintenance and Re-establishment of Family Links and Transmission of Information, Heike Spieker
54: The Derogation Clause, Anne-Laurence Graf-Brugere
Sub-Section 2 - Civilians in the Hands of the Enemy: General Protection
55: Who is a Protected Civilian?, Elizabeth Salmon
56: The Prohibition of Collective Punishment, Shane Darcy
57: The Right to Leave, Pamela Anne Hylton
58: The Transfer and Deportation of Civilians, Vincent Chetail
59: Judicial Guarantees, Payam Akhavan
60: Other Issues Relating to the Treatment of Civilians in Enemy Hands, Iris van der Heijden
Sub-Section 3 - Specific Protection
61: Special Rules on Women, Noelle Quenivet
62: Special Rules on Children, Hans-Joachim Heintze and Charlotte Lulf
63: Special Rules on Refugees, François Crépeau & Bethany Hastie
Sub-Section 4 - Internment
64: Admissibility of and Procedures for Internment, Laura M. Olson
65: Treatment of Internees, Bruce Oswald and Lucrezia Iapichino
66: End of Internment, Bruce Oswald
Sub-Section 5 - Occupied Territories
67: The Concept and the Beginning of Occupation, Marco Sassoli
68: Law-Making and the Judicial Guarantees in Occupied Territories, Yutaka Arai-Takahashi
69: The Administration of Occupied Territory, Michael Bothe
70: Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Occupied Territories, Gilles Giacca
71: Protection of Private Property, Yutaka Arai-Takahashi
72: Protection of Public Property, Anicee Van Engeland
73: Prohibition of Settlements, Christian Tomuschat
74: The Geneva Conventions and the End of Occupation, Julia Grignon

About the author: 

Edited by Andrew Clapham, Professor of Public International Law and Director, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, Paola Gaeta, Director, Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and Marco Sassòli, Professor of International Law, University of Geneva
Andrew Clapham is Professor of Public International Law at the Graduate Institute of International Studies, Geneva. Before he joined the GIIS in 1997, he was the Representative of Amnesty International to the United Nations in New York. His current research relates to the role of non-state actors in international law and related questions in human rights and humanitarian law. Andrew Clapham was the Director of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights from 2006 until 2014. His publications include The Oxford Handbook of International Law in Armed Conflict (co-edited with Paola Gaeta) (OUP 2014), Human Rights: A Very Short Introduction (2007), Human Rights Obligations of Non-State Actors (2006), and International Human Rights Lexicon (2005), with Susan Marks. He is an academic associate member of Matrix Chambers in London.
Paola Gaeta (PhD in Law, European University Institute, 1997) was Assistant Professor (1998), Associate Professor (2001) and then Tenured Professor (2001-2010) of Public International Law at the University of Florence. She is currently Tenured Professor of International Criminal Law at the Law Faculty of the University of Geneva and Adjunct Professor of International Criminal Law at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies. From 2007 until 2014, she was the Director of the LL.M. Programme in International Humanitarian Law of the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights and from 2011 until 2014 Director of the Academy itself. She is a Member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Criminal Justice and of the Editorial Board of the European Journal of International Law. Her publications include The Oxford Handbook of International Law in Armed Conflict (co-edited with Andrew Clapham) (OUP 2014).
Marco Sassòli (PhD in Law, Basel, 1989) is Professor of International Law and Director of the Department of International Law and International Organization at the University of Geneva. From 2001-2003, Marco Sassòli was Professor of International Law at the Université du Québec à Montreal, Canada, where he remains Associate Professor. He is member of the International Commission of Jurists. He has worked from 1985-1997 for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) at the headquarters, inter alia as Deputy Head of its Legal Division, and in conflict areas, in particular the Middle East and the Balkans. He has also served as registrar at the Swiss Supreme Court, and from 2004-2013 as chair of the board of Geneva Call, an NGO engaging non-state armed actors to respect humanitarian rules.

Payam Akhavan - McGill University 
Yutaka Arai-Takahashi - University of Kent 
Pierre dArgent - University of Louvain 
Annyssa Bellal - National University of Ireland 
Paolo Benvenuti - University Roma Tre 
Michael Bothe - J.W. Goethe University 
Théo Boutruche - Independent Consultant 
Antoine A. Bouvier - International Committee of the Red Cross 
Stuart Casey-Maslen - International Lawyer 
Vincent Chetail - Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies 
François Crépeau - McGill University 
Shane Darcy - National University of Ireland 
Jérôme De Hemptinne - Special Tribunal for Lebanon 
Giovanni Distefano - University of Neuchâtel 
Louise Doswald-Beck - Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies 
Daniela Gavshon - Public Interest Advocacy Centre 
Robin Geiß - University of Glasgow 
Gilles Giacca - International Committee of the Red Cross 
Rotem Giladi - Hebrew University 
Anne-Laurence Graf-Brugère - University of Fribourg 
Julia Grignon - Laval University 
Tom Haeck - International Lawyer 
Steven Haines - University of Greenwich 
Bethany Hastie - McGill University 
Iris van der Heijden - Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights 
Hans-Joachim Heintze - Ruhr-University 
Etienne Henry - University of Neuchâtel 
Annie Hylton - International Human Rights Lawyer 
Lucrezia Iapichino - University of Bologna 
Ralph Janik - University of Vienna 
Jann K. Kleffner - Swedish Defence University 
Sarah Knuckey - Columbia Law School 
Robert Kolb - University of Geneva 
Flavia Lattanzi - LUISS University 
Charlotte Lülf - Ruhr-University 
Robert J. McGuire - Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP 
Frédéric Mégret - McGill University 
Elzbieta Mikos-Skuza - University of Warsaw 
Marko Milanovic - University of Nottingham School of Law 
Lindsay Moir - University of Hull 
Nishat Nishat - University of Geneva 
Manfred Nowak - University of Vienna 
Keiichiro Okimoto - Office of Legal Affairs, Secretariat of the United Nations. 
Laura M. Olson - US Department of Homeland Security's Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties 
Bruce Oswald - Melbourne Law School 
Anna Petrig - University of Basel 
Noëlle Quénivet - University of the West of England 
Steven Ratner - University of Michigan 
Gabor Rona - Cardozo Law School 
Natalino Ronzitti - LUISS University 
Indira Rosenthal - Independent Consultant 
Peter Rowe - University of Lancaster 
Elizabeth Salmon - Pontifical Catholic University 
Silvia Sanna - University of Sassari 
Yves Sandoz - University of Fribourg 
Katja Schöberl - German Red Cross 
Patricia V. Sellers - Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court 
Sandesh Sivakumaran - University of Nottingham 
Heike Spieker - German Red Cross 
Christian Tomuschat - Humboldt University Berlin 
Marie-Louise Tougas - International Committee of the Red Cross 
David Tuck - Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights 
Anicée Van Engeland - University of London 
Gabriella Venturini - University of Milan 
Luisa Vierucci - University of Florence 
Sean Watts - Creighton University 
Stefan Wehrenberg - Blum & Grob Attorneys at Law Ltd. 
Sharon Weill - Sciences-Po and Paris II Universities 
Andreas R. Ziegler - University of Lausanne 

"One of the outstanding qualities of the book, is that despite being huge (nearly 1600-pages), The 1949 Geneva Conventions: A Commentary is surprisingly accessible...I am hugely impressed by this volume which is a staggering editorial achievement, bringing together some of the finest IHL scholarship around. There is no doubt in my mind that it will become a classic text for students and researchers." - Katharine Fortin, Armed Groups and International Law

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