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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2009 Week 9 Hansard (18 August) . . Page.. 3183..


Four Geneva conventions of 1949—60th anniversary

MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Attorney-General, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Water, Minister for Energy and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (11.06), by leave: I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) notes the sixtieth anniversary of the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949;

(2) congratulates the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement on its continuous fostering of the principles of international humanitarian law to limit human suffering in times of armed conflict and to prevent atrocities, especially against civilian populations, the wounded, and prisoners of war;

(3) recalls Australia's ratification of the Conventions and of the two Additional Protocols of 1977;

(4) affirms all Parliamentary measures taken in support of such ratification;

(5) encourages the fullest implementation of the Conventions and Additional Protocols by the military forces and civilian organisations of all nations;

(6) encourages ratification by all nations of the Conventions and Additional Protocols; and

(7) recognises the extraordinary contribution made by many individual Australians, including Australian Red Cross members, volunteers and staff, to the practical carrying into effect of the humanitarian ideals and legal principles expressed in the Conventions and Additional Protocols.

Sixty years ago, on 12 August 1949, the international community adopted the four Geneva conventions to protect victims of armed conflict. The Geneva conventions are at the core of international humanitarian law, the body of international law on the conduct of armed conflict. The original Geneva convention was the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field of 1864. Unlike previous laws about the conduct of war, the convention was not devised by the officials of a religion on the basis of their religious precepts. Instead, it was devised by the International Committee of the Red Cross and constituted by agreement of nation states of the world. Hence, the convention's founders could and did genuinely promote the convention's universality. There has long been a consensus among historians and legal scholars that this was the beginning of today's international humanitarian law.

The first convention was followed by three others. The four came into force as international law on 21 October 1950. They came to be known as the Geneva conventions. They prescribe certain protections for people who have not taken part in hostilities—the civilians, health workers and aid workers—and those who are no longer taking part, such as wounded, sick and shipwrecked soldiers and prisoners of war. Australia ratified the conventions on 14 October 1958 and the Australian parliament enacted the Geneva Conventions Act 1957. The major purpose of this act


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