We must do more to prevent wars from degenerating into barbarism

150 years ago, the first Geneva Convention enshrined the idea in international law that even during war, a certain degree of humanity must be preserved. That’s easier said than done.

UN Photo: Martine Perret
The UN says Kabibi Tabu, pictured in 2006, lost both legs and her six-month-old baby in a landmine blast in Bunia, Democratic Republic of Congo. Traditional war between armies of opposing states is the exception, say the authors. Nowadays civilians bear the brunt of armed conflicts.
Didier Burkhalter, Peter Maurer
Published: Wednesday, 08/20/2014 12:00 am EDT

One hundred fifty years ago on Aug. 22, the first Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field was adopted, enshrining the idea in international law that even in times of war, a certain degree of humanity must be preserved. Switzerland and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which together helped to secure acceptance for international humanitarian law on the world stage at that time, are now calling for stricter compliance with this principle, as there remains a lack of effective mechanisms for encouraging compliance around the globe.

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