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Challenges Remain For Geneva Conventions

Challenges Remain, 50 Years On For Geneva Conventions, Says Upton

Recent conflicts in Kosovo and Africa continue to challenge the international community to comply with both the letter and spirit of the four Geneva Conventions, 50 years after they were adopted, Associate Foreign Minister Simon Upton said today.

Mr Upton noted that today marked the 50th anniversary of the adoption of four Geneva Conventions which protect combatants and civilians caught up in armed conflict.

"A half century ago, a world emerging from the shadow of the horrors of World War II decided that soldiers and civilians were entitled to certain basic protections that needed to be enshrined in international treaties," Mr Upton said.

"The result was four treaties which, with 190 States party to them, are more widely accepted around the world than even the United Nations Charter itself.

"However, we need to ensure that these treaties provide living, effective protection for those in such sore need of them. Our goal must be that within the foreseeable future we shall be able to say that the Conventions have been fulfilled as our predecessors in Geneva intended," Mr Upton said.

The four Geneva Conventions deal with Wounded and Sick Armed Forces in the Field; Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea; Treatment of Prisoners of War, and Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. New Zealand signed all four Conventions in 1950 and ratified them in 1959.

The 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent will take place in Geneva later this year. A declaration, plan of action and individual pledges will demonstrate the international community’s resolve to improve the situation of victims of war and other disasters, and to alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable groups and individuals.

Red Cross patron and Governor-General Sir Michael Hardy-Boys will host a ceremony at Government House tomorrow as one of a number of events planned worldwide to celebrate the conclusion of negotiations over the Conventions in 1949.

ENDS

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