1949 Geneva Conventions
1. The United States is a party to the following Geneva Conventions of 1949:
- Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field of 12 August 1949, cited herein as GWS.
- Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick, and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea of 12 August 1949, cited herein as GWS Sea.
- Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of 12 August 1949, cited herein as GPW.
- Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949, cited herein as GC.
2. These treaties will be strictly observed and enforced by United States forces without regard to whether they are legally binding upon this country and its specific relations with any other specified country. Military commanders will be instructed which, if any, of these treaties, or component parts thereof, are not legally binding in a given situation. On 10 August 1965, the US Secretary of State notified the International Committee of the Red Cross that the Geneva Conventions as a whole would apply to the Vietnam conflict. Future armed conflict involving the United States will most likely be subjected to the same laws on a unilateral basis.
3. Those articles of the above-referenced treaties directly applicable to this manual are quoted below. (See FM 27-10 for full explanation of these treaties.)
GWS, GWS Sea, GPW, GC, Art. 2) SITUATIONS TO WHICH LAW OF WAR ARE APPLICABLE
In addition to the provisions which shall be implemented in peacetime, the present Convention shall apply to all cases of declared war or of any other armed conflict which may arise between two or more of the High Contracting Parties, even if the State of War is not recognized by one of them.
The Convention shall also apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance. Although one of the Powers in conflict may not be a party to the present Convention, the Powers who are parties thereto shall remain bound by it in their mutual relations. They shall furthermore be bound by the Convention in relation to the said Power, if the latter accepts and applies the provisions thereof.
(GWS, GPW, GWS Sea, GC, Art. 3) INSURGENCY
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:
- Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, color, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria.
- To this end, the following, acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with rspect to the above-mentioned persons:
- violence to life and person, in particular, murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
- taking of hostages;
- outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
- the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
- The wounded and sick shall be collected and cared for. An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.
The Parties to the conflict should further endeavour to bring into force, by means of special agreements, all or part of the other provisions of the present Convention.
The application of the preceding provisions shall not affect the legal status of the Parties to the conflict.
GPW, Art. 4) PRISONERS OF WAR DEFINED
A. Prisoners of war, in the sense of the present Convention, are persons belonging to one of the following categories, who have fallen into the power of the enemy:
- Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict, as well as members of militias or volunteer corps forming part of such armed forces.
- Members of other militias and members of other volunteer corps, including those of organized resistance movements, belonging to a Party to the conflict and operating in or outside their own territory, even if this territory is occupied, provided that such militias or volunteer corps, including such organized resistance movements, fulfill the following conditions:
- that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
- that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
- that of carrying arms openly;
- that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.
Persons who accompany the armed forces without actually being members thereof, such as civilian members of military aircraft crews, war correspondents, supply contractors, members of labour units or of services responsible for the welfare of the armed forces, provided that they have received authorization from the armed forces which they accompany, who shall provide them for that purpose with an identity card similar to the annexed model.
Members of crews, including masters, pilots and apprentices, of the merchant marine and the crews of civil aircraft of the Parties to the conflict, who do not benefit by more favorable treatment under any other provisions of international law.
Inhabitants of a nonoccupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the~laws and customs of war.
B. The following shall likewise be treated as prisoners of war under the present Convention:
Persons belonging, or having belonged, to the armed forces of the occupied country, if the occupying Power considers is necessary by reason of such allegiance to intern them, even though it has originally liberated them while hostilities were going on outside the territory it occupies, in particular where such persons have made an unsuccessful attempt to rejoin the armed forces to which they belong and which are engaged in combat, or where they fail to comply with a summons made to them with a view to internment.
The persons belonging to one of the categories enumerated in the present Article, who have been received by neutral or nonbelligerent Powers on their territory and whom these Powers are required to intern under international law, without prejudice to any more favourable treatment which these Powers may choose to give and with the exceptions of Article 8, 10, 15, 30, fifth paragraph, 58-67, 92, 126 and, where diplomatic relations exist between the Parties to the conflict and the neutral or nonbelligerent Power concerned, those Articles concerning the Protecting Power. Where such diplomatic relations exist, the Parties to a conflict on whom these persons depend shall be allowed to perform towards them the functions of a Protecting Power as provided in the present Convention, without prejudice to the functions which these Parties normally exercise in conformity with diplomatic and consular usage and treaties.
C. This Article shall in no way affect the status of medical personnel and chaplains as provided for in Article 33 of the present Convention.
(GPW, Art. 13) HUMANE TREATMENT OF PRISONERS
Prisoners of war must at all times be humanely treated. An unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited, and will be regarded as a serious breach of the present Convention. In particular, no prisoner of war may be subjected to physical mutilation or to medical or scientific experiments of any kind which are not justified by the medical, dental or hospital treatment of the prisoner concerned and carried out in his interest.
Likewise, prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
Measures of reprisal against prisoners of war are prohibited.
(GPW, Art. 17) QUESTIONING OF PRISONERS
Every prisoner of war, when questioned on the subject, is bound to give only his surname, first names and rank, date of birth, and army, regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information.
If he willfully infringes this rule, he may render himself liable to a restriction of the privileges accorded to his rank or status.
Each Party to a conflict is required to furnish the persons under its jurisdiction who are liable to become prisoners of war, with an identity card showing the owner's surname, first names, rank, army, regimental, personal or serial number or equivalent information, and date of birth. The identity card may, furthermore, bear the signature or the fingerprints, or both, of the owner, and may bear, as well, any other information the Party to the conflict may wish to add concerning persons belonging to its armed forces. As far as possible the card shall measure 6.5 x 10 cm. and shall be issued in duplicate. The identity card shall be shown by the prisoner of war upon demand, but may in no case be taken away from him.
No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.
Prisoners of war who, owing to their physical or mental condition, are unable to state their identity, shall be handed over to the medical service. The identity of such prisoners shall be established by all possible means, subject to the provisions of the preceding paragraph.
The questioning of prisoners of war shall be carried out in a language which they understand.
(GC, Art. 31) PROHIBITION OF COERCION
No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons, in particular to obtain inform ation from them or from third parties.