The Geneva Conventions

The International Committee of the Red Cross described how the Geneva Conventions, were established for mutual benefit, to legally bind States to exercise constraint in their treatment of non-combatants: civilians and prisoners of war.  They form a definition of jus in bello, in the terminology of ‘just war’ theory (

Rule 158 of the Geneva Conventions declares:

“States must investigate war crimes allegedly committed by their nationals or armed forces, or on their territory, and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects.  They must also investigate other war crimes over which they have jurisdiction and, if appropriate, prosecute the suspects.”

Almost all countries have agreed to comply, and in doing so they commit themselves to use their own jurisdictions to prosecute breaches.

Ward Ferdinandusse’s article, The Prosecution of Grave Breaches in National Courts, observed that implementation has been patchy in practice: “the grave breaches regime has so far not lived up to its potential.”



This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3a book, © PatternsofPower.org, 2020.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/5363a.htm