What are the Geneva Conventions?

Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (Article 60)

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The Geneva Conventions are a series of treaties the military must abide by in times of war. They were initially implemented by the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded (which later became the International Committee for the Red Cross and Red Crescent), to protect soldiers no longer engaged in combat, such as the sick and wounded, shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea, prisoners of war, and civilians.

Held in Geneva, the 1949 conventions and the two additional protocols in 1977 form the basis for international humanitarian law in times of war.

The Treatment of Prisoners of War (Article 60)

Article 60 of the Geneva Convention pertains to payment for POWs. It says:

The Detaining Power shall grant all prisoners of war a monthly advance of pay, the amount of which shall be fixed by conversion, into the currency of the said Power, of the following amounts:

Category I: Prisoners ranking below sergeant: eight Swiss francs.

Category II: Sergeants and other non-commissioned officers, or prisoners of equivalent rank: twelve Swiss francs.

Category III: Warrant officers and commissioned officers below the rank of major or prisoners of equivalent rank: fifty Swiss francs.

Category IV: Majors, lieutenant-colonels, colonels or prisoners of equivalent rank: sixty Swiss francs.

Category V: General officers or prisoners of equivalent rank: seventy-five Swiss francs.

However, the Parties to the conflict concerned may by special agreement modify the amount of advances of pay due to prisoners of the preceding categories.

Furthermore, if the amounts indicated in the first paragraph above would be unduly high compared with the pay of the Detaining Power’s armed forces or would, for any reason, seriously embarrass the Detaining Power, then, pending the conclusion of a special agreement with the Power on which the prisoners depend to vary the amounts indicated above, the Detaining Power:

(a) Shall continue to credit the accounts of the prisoners with the amounts indicated in the first paragraph above;

(b) May temporarily limit the amount made available from these advances of pay to prisoners of war for their own use, to sums which are reasonable, but which, for Category I, shall never be inferior to the amount that the Detaining Power gives to the members of its own armed forces.

The reasons for any limitations will be given without delay to the Protecting Power.

Are the Geneva Conventions Still Followed Today?

While the treaties put in place by the Geneva Conventions are still in effect today, there has been some criticism in recent years that they should be updated. The most daunting question is whether the humanitarian rights put into effect by the Geneva Conventions for POWs should pertain to terrorists or suspected terrorists.

World leaders have questioned whether these rules, written after World War II and updated after the Vietnam War, apply to conflicts of today? And, if so, how can they be enforced more effectively? Also, can they be revised to address new threats, such as acts of terrorism?

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