The Advocate

Dear Editor:

Re: A Short History of the Geneva Conventions

I read with interest the two part series by David Roberts, Q.C. on the rationale, the lobbying, and the development of the Four Geneva Conventions, the establishment of the Red Cross and the gradual development of international law relating to warfare. He carefully detailed the exhaustive steps taken to bring a modicum of mercy to the battlefield, steps which eventually led to many treaties on the prohibition of various means of killing and maiming, and to the creation of the International Criminal Court.

Scholarly research such as this is a valuable reminder of the effort and dedication people of integrity have applied in order to bring some sort of humanity to the madness that is war. As lawyers, we have a special interest in the rule of law, the development of international law and the necessity to uphold it. Why then, do we read such missives, appreciate the tremendous effort made on civilization’s behalf, and then remain oblivious to the ongoing violations of international law by a country such as Israel? Israel has continued an illegal occupation of the Palestinian people for decades, some would argue since 1948, when it misused the UN Partition Plan as its excuse to dispossess 750,000 Palestinians from their land. That occupation continues today and has led to a state of apartheid obvious to any who visit the occupied Palestinian Territories. In besieged Gaza, the Israeli military violently suppresses people resisting their inhumane conditions, specifically targeting clearly identifiable medics, journalists and unarmed young protest leaders. International law makes clear that civilians and medics are to be unharmed in warfare, and it is unarguable that in the modern era, colonialism and apartheid are prohibited.

Have the Geneva Conventions no significance? Is international law now a joke that bullies can disregard for their land grabs? As lawyers, we have a role and a responsibility to advocate for justice for all. Thanks to ubiquitous illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank & East Jerusalem, a “two-state solution” to the crisis in Israel-Palestine is no longer a possibility. It is time to use international law to demand that Israel be held accountable for its war crimes, and pressure it to move to a state that offers equality, justice and freedom to all its inhabitants.


Sally Campbell