What is the significance of the Geneva Conventions?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that the true significance of the Geneva Conventions is to establish the sense of "rules of engagement" to modern conflicts.  The Geneva Conventions demonstrate the attempt to make the experience of war less dehumanizing.  On one level, it is awkward because if one were concerned with humanity, then war would not be seen as an option.  Yet, the Geneva Conventions tries, in the most crude of sense, to establish parameters to make the best of a bad situation.  The affording of protection to prisoners of war helps to establish the standard of human rights.  In wars, nations that adhere to the Geneva Conventions must treat those imprisoned with dignity and not engage in the debasement often associated with torture and other interrogation techniques that go outside the divulging of "surname, first name and rank, date of birth, and army regimental, personal or serial number, or failing this, equivalent information."  This is significant because it really speaks to how nations that wish to follow the rule of law must behave in some of their worst of times.  This practical application of the Geneva Convention was quite significant when the idea of "enhanced interrogation" and other methods of "persuasion" were and are still debated.  In this, the Geneva Convention acquires even greater significance when debating the ethical treatment of individuals under the "war on terror."

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