Preparatory documents on Geneva Conventions now available online

13 February 2015

Two years after the ICRC started its project to update the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions, readers can now access individual preparatory documents online. These texts provide a deeper understanding of the Conventions themselves.

As part of the project to update the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions, the ICRC library's priority has been to ensure digital access to documents preparatory to the Geneva Conventions. This work covers the following:

  •  the Diplomatic Conference of 1929;
  •  the International Red Cross Conferences in Tokyo (1934) and London (1938);
  •  preparatory documents drawn up by the National Societies in 1946, and by government experts in 1947;
  •  the International Red Cross Conference held in Stockholm in 1948;
  •  the Diplomatic Conference of 1949.

The documents can now be found in the ICRC library’s catalogue.

Most of these documents (currently being used to update the Commentaries on the Geneva Conventions) had – to date – been available in paper form only in the ICRC library and the Swiss Federal Archives.

From today, readers will finally be able to view scanned versions of the proceedings' minutes, the only accurate records that exist of these deliberations.

A clearer overview

Numerous consultative meetings were organized in the lead-up to the 1949 Diplomatic Conference. In the 20 years of discussions that culminated in the signing of the new Geneva Conventions, these various forums produced a whole range of projects.

A chart in French providing an overview of the various consultative meetings will make the different stages of the process clearer and help readers to find even obscure documents.

Tableau synoptique chronologique des réunions

A long-term project

As early as 2005, under the leadership of the ICRC delegation to Washington and the library of the Judge Advocate General's Legal Center and School, the English records of the Diplomatic Conference proceedings, as well as other important reports, were scanned by the Library of Congress, which possessed copies of the documents. They are still available online via their joint website.

The digital versions of the documents are available in the ICRC library's catalogue. They can be consulted by clicking on the link "Preparatory documents and records relating to the 1949 Geneva Conventions" on the left, at the bottom of the column.

For further information on the project, please contact: