ICRC databases on international humanitarian law
Treaties and Documents
1949 Conventions and Additional Protocols, and their Commentaries
Historical Treaties and Documents
Convention (II) for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea. Geneva, 12 August 1949.
TITLE OF THE CONVENTION
[p.17] TITLE OF THE CONVENTION
GENEVA CONVENTION FOR THE AMELIORATION OF THE
CONDITION OF WOUNDED, SICK AND SHIPWRECKED MEMBERS
OF ARMED FORCES AT SEA OF AUGUST 12, 1949
The title is not an integral part of the Convention. It comes before the introductory sentence ("The undersigned... have agreed as follows:") and does not appear again after it. As however, it was expressly submitted to the Conference, it is official, and calls for brief comment.
It will be noted that the title is quite new. For the first time, the Convention which protects the victims of naval warfare has received its own appropriate name. Until now, it was simply presented as an extension, or an annex, of the Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field. It first appeared in the Draft of additional Articles of 1868 under the heading "Articles concerning the Navy"; as already noted in the Introduction to this Commentary, that Draft was intended to clarify certain stipulations of the 1864 Geneva Convention and to extend its benefits to armed forces at sea (1).
When the rules relating to naval warfare finally became part of positive law at The Hague, in 1899, they were still not given a title of their own, indicating their purpose. Although they constituted a completely independent ad hoc instrument, they were entitled "Convention for the Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention of August 22, 1864", and thus remained bound up with the Geneva law. In 1907, when the Second Conference of The Hague revised the 1899 text to adapt it to the Dew (1906) version of the Geneva Convention, the revised text was given a similar title: "Convention for the Adaptation to Maritime Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention". It will be [p.18] noted, however, that the date of the latter (1906) is not indicated, whereas it was in the 1899 Convention (1864) (2).
This reference to the Geneva law, both in 1899 and in 1907, shows that the legislators at The Hague considered the Convention which they were framing as being bound up with the juridical movement which had begun at Geneva; and when the 1949 version embodied the name of that city in its title, it was merely resuming its natural place.
The International Committee of the Red Cross proposed the present title for the Convention in the draft texts which it submitted to the XVIIth International Conference of the Red Cross. There were no objections to the proposal. Indeed, since it had been acknowledged that the various categories of war victims should be protected by separate legal instruments (3) it became obvious that each of the latter should be given a title defining it clearly and completely.
The Diplomatic Conference also adopted this title, without further discussion, but inserted the name ' Geneva ' as in the case of the other three Conventions which it had revised or drawn up (4) considering that "from a practical point of view, it would be preferable, particularly as the literature already generally refers to the Geneva Conventions, to give the official title of "Geneva Conventions" to all these documents, as a tribute to the city of Geneva, [p.19] the headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and also to Switzerland as a whole" (5).
The title of the Second Convention is modelled on that of the First, but with two modifications: the shipwrecked have been added to the wounded and sick; and whereas the title of the First refers to "wounded and sick in armed forces in the field", that of the Second reads: "wounded, sick and shipwrecked ' members of ' armed forces at sea". This slight change, which is purely stylistic, is intended only to define more clearly the fact of belonging to the armed forces. No corresponding alteration was made in the First Convention, in order not to make any unnecessary change in a longestablished title which was universally recognized.
In conclusion, it should be emphasized that the term "armed forces at sea" does not merely indicate the navy as such, as will be seen later in connection with Article 13 (6), but also any armed unit of any branch of the services on board ship.
* (1) [(1) p.17] See above, p. 5;
(2) [(1) p.18] The simple reference to "the Geneva Convention"
shows that even at that time there was no possible
question as to its nature and object, which required no
(3) [(2) p.18] In earlier drafts, it had been thought that all
the provisions relating to maritime warfare might be
embodied in the "Wounded and Sick" Convention;
(4) [(3) p.18] For brevity the second of the four Geneva
Conventions, which is the subject of the present
Commentary, will be called "the Convention" or "the Second
Convention". The other Conventions, where there is
occasion to refer to them, will be known by their serial
"First Convention" will mean the "Geneva Convention
for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and
Sick in Armed Forces in the Field of August 12, 1949";
"Third Convention" will mean the "Geneva Convention
relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of August
"Fourth Convention" will mean the "Geneva Convention
relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of
War of August 12, 1949".
Similarly, references may be made to "the 1899
Convention" or "the 1907 Convention" to designate the
Conventions of The Hague for the Adaptation to Maritime
Warfare of the Principles of the Geneva Convention
(Convention No. III of 1899, and Convention No. X of
(5) [(1) p.19] See ' Final Record of the Diplomatic Conference
of Geneva of 1949, ' Berne, 1950-51, four volumes, Vol. I,
II-A, II-B, III; Vol. II-B, p. 457;
(6) [(2) p.19] See below, p. 94 ff.;