The Geneva Conventions were a series of four international conferences designed to establish guidelines on how civilian and military prisoners of war must be treated. Each convention produced an individual treaty that was intended to put an end the inhumane treatment of prisoners and establish punishments for those who breach the agreements. They reflect the principles of the International Humanitarian Law and the ideals of respect for human dignity.
The first convention focused on soldiers who are wounded on the battlefield. It discussed the need to allow combatants who had been injured to receive first aid, and created protections for members on the International Red Cross.
The second dealt with similar issues for people who are hurt and shipwrecked at sea. Both conferences shared two primary purposes: military personnel who are either sick, wounded or shipwrecked are not able to take part in the war and must be cared for and protected, and anyone carrying the Red Cross flag was to be considered neutral and allowed to administer medical aid without fear of attack.
Convention number three dwelt on the subject of prisoners of war. A list of what is acceptable includes provision of adequate food, clothing, shelter and medical care. The list of unacceptable treatment for captured soldiers stipulates that prisoners cannot be forced to give any information other than their name, rank or serial and service numbers. They must receive a receipt for any valuables taken and cannot be held in close confinement or forced to do military or other dangerous work.
The final convention targeted civilians under enemy control. Protocols were established to improve the conditions that non-military individuals must endure when incarcerated during a modern military conflict. Civilians must be treated humanely and respectfully, and allowed to practice their preferred religion. They must never be subjected to a violent situation or used as a human shield if their captors are under attack.
The conventions adopted the emblems of the Red Cross and Red Crescent and asked the governments of every nation to recognize them as a protected and neutral source of medical assistance to aid any and all who are injured during a time of war.