- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 13, 2002

GENEVA (AP) Switzerland has called an informal meeting for next January to discuss how to improve respect for the Geneva Conventions, which are meant to set standards of behavior in armed conflict but are routinely ignored.
Swiss Foreign Ministry spokesman Daniel Haener said last Sunday that the meeting, due to take place at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., would probably be lower than ministerial level. He added that the conference would make no attempt to revise the conventions.
"It's not so much a problem of the principles of the Geneva Conventions, but for a very long time there have been problems with the application," Mr. Haener said.
The first Geneva Conventions were drawn up in 1864 on the initiative of Red Cross founder Henri Dunant to deal with treatment of wounded on the battlefield. It was overhauled in 1949 with further conventions setting out standards for the treatment of the wounded and prisoners of war, as well as protection of civilians.
But the laws relate primarily to international armed conflict rather than civil strife, and they are frequently ignored by governments and rebel movements alike. They contain no provisions on terrorism. There are no legal measures to ensure compliance with the rules, and no sanctions specified if signatories do not respect the agreements.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is the main organization monitoring compliance with the rules. Neutral Switzerland, as the depository country of the conventions, has the authority to convene meetings of the 189 signatories to discuss them.


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