Geneva Conventions: Article 3

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The Bush administration objects to the clause in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions that prohibits "outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment." President Bush urged Congress on Friday to join in backing legislation to spell out strategies for interrogating and trying terror suspects, saying "the enemy wants to attack us again."

What are the Geneva Conventions?

The Geneva Conventions are a set of international rules that govern the treatment of prisoners, the sick and wounded, and civilians during war. Under the Geneva Conventions, for example, ambulances and military hospitals and their staff are officially neutral and are not to be fired upon. Nearly all countries of the world have agreed to the Geneva Conventions.

The Geneva Convention was first signed in 1864 and was revised in 1906 and 1929. In 1949, the texts were expanded to include additional legal protections relative to the treatment of prisoners of war.

What constitutes a war crime?

Prisoners of war are entitled to food, shelter, medical treatments, visits from relief agencies and protection against violence, intimidation, degrading treatment or pressure of any kind during interrogation.

Mistreatment of prisoners of war amounts to "torture or inhuman treatment" is a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions and is considered a war crime.

What does Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions say?

The Third Geneva Convention primarily regards the treatment of prisoners of war. In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) taking of hostages; (c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

An impartial humanitarian body, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross, may offer its services to the Parties to the conflict.

What are some examples of Geneva violations?

Violations of the Geneva Conventions were among the crimes included in the jurisdictions of the international criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia (1993) and Rwanda (1994) and the International Criminal Court (2002).

You can learn more about the history of Rwanda in the CBS News interactive.

To Learn More About The Geneva Conventions:

• Text of Article 3 from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

• The full text of the Geneva Conventions

• To get the latest information from the International Committee of the Red Cross, click here.