The Laws of Armed Conflicts: A Collection of Conventions, Resolutions, and Other Documents

By Dietrich Schindler; Jiri Toman | Go to book overview
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No. 37

Geneva, 26–29 October 1863

INTRODUCTORY NOTE: The Geneva International Conference of 1863 was the founding Conference of the Red Cross and gave the impetus to the development of the humanitarian laws of war embodied in the Geneva Conventions of 1864, 1906, 1929, 1949 and in the Additional Protocols of 1977.

The movement was initiated by Henry Dunant, a citizen of Geneva, who, in 1859, was an eyewitness of the battle of Solférino where thousands of wounded died without care who could have been saved if sufficient medical services had existed. In 1862, Dunant published his book Un souvenir de Solférino in which, after an impressive description of the battle, he proposed to set up in time of peace relief societies in each country for the care of the wounded in time of war. He furthermore suggested the adoption of an international agreement recognizing the inviolability of medical services and of the wounded. The book aroused much discussion all over Europe. The Geneva Society of Public Welfare, under the presidency of Gustave Moynier, took up Dunant's ideas and, on 9 February 1863, appointed a committee, consisting of General G.H. Dufour as president, Gustave Moynier, Henry Dunant, Theodore Maunoir and Louis Appia, to examine the questions involved, This “Committee of Five” which later was to become the International Committee of the Red Cross, convened on a private basis the International Conference of 1863 at which 16 states were represented. The Conference adopted Dunant's and the Committee's proposals for the creation of national committees and decided that a red cross on a white ground should be the distinctive sign of the medical personnel. In the Recommendations attached to the Resolutions the Conference expressed its wish that the governments conclude a corresponding agreement.

AUTHENTIC TEXT: French. The translation below is reprinted from the Handbook of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, 13th edn., Geneva, 1994, pp. 613–615.

TEXT PUBLISHED IN: Secours aux blessés. Communication du Comité international faisant suite au compte-rendu de la Conférence internationale de Genève, Genève, Imprimerie de Jules-Guillaume Fick, 1864, pp. 41–43 (French); La Charité internationale sur les champs de bataille—Le Traité de Genève et un Souvenir de Solférino, Paris, Hachette, 1865, pp. 144–147 (French); P. Fauchille and N. Politis, Manuel de la Croix-Rouge à l'usage des militaires de terre et de mer et des sociétés de secours aux blessés, Paris, Société française d'imprimerie et de librairie, 1908, pp.161–163 (French); Deltenre, pp. 718–721 (Engl., French, German, Dutch); Manuel de la Croix-Rouge internationale, 1983, pp. 563–564 (French); International Red Cross Handbook, 1983, pp. 547–548 (Engl.); Manual de la Cruz Roja internacional, 1983, pp. 551–552 (Span.); Handbook of the International Movement, 1994, pp. 613–615 (Engl.); Manuel du Mouvement international, 1994, pp.631–633 (French); Manual del Movimiento internacional, 1994, pp.


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The Laws of Armed Conflicts: A Collection of Conventions, Resolutions, and Other Documents
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