The most significant sources of International Humanitarian Law ("IHL") are the pertinent international treaties. Treaties research is a multi-step process that involves identifying the official citation for the treaty, locating a full-text version of the treaty, reviewing any reservations/declarations to the treaty, and, if the U.S. is a party to the treaty, identifying any enabling legislation.
For an in-depth overview of conducting treaties research, please visit the UNC Law Library's Public International Law Research Guide. This research guide provides guidance on how to conduct treaties research where the United States is a party to the treaty, and it also provides suggestions for conducting treaties research where the United States is not a party to the treaty.
The four Geneva Conventions and their additional Protocols form the modern framework for the treatment of soldiers, prisoners of war and non-combatants during wartime. All except Protocol III should be cited to United States Treaties and/or United Nations Treaty Series.
|Title||Date||UST citation||UN TS citation|
Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field
|Aug. 12, 1949||6 U.S.T. 3114||75 U.N.T.S. 31|
Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea
|Aug. 12, 1949||6 U.S.T. 3217||75 U.N.T.S. 85|
Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War
|Aug. 12, 1949||6 U.S.T. 3316||75 U.N.T.S. 135|
Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Times of War
|Aug. 12, 1949||6 U.S.T. 3516||75 U.N.T.S. 287|
Protocol Additions to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts
|June 8, 1977||No U.S.T. citation||1125 U.N.T.S. 3|
Protocol II Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 and Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts
|June 8, 1977||No U.S.T. citation||1125 U.N.T.S. 609|
Protocol III Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and Relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem.
|Dec. 8, 2005||No U.S.T. citation; can be found on the ICRC website at: http://www.icrc.org/ihl.nsf/FULL/615||No U.N.T.S. citation|
The following is a list of suggested resources that can be used to locate IHL treaties. The majority of these resources are publicly-available websites and can be utilized by UNC Law faculty and students, as well a public patrons.
The United Nations serves as the depositary for hundreds of multilateral treaties, including many IHL treaties. To review the treaties available through the UN's website, please visit this link. Treaties on this webpage are organized topically by chapter.
Switzerland is the official depositary for the Geneva Conventions. The Swiss Federal Archives has digitized much of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols, and they are viewable from their website.
Note: The U.S. Library of Congress also provides access to Geneva Convention materials through their website.
A collection of full-text conference proceedings, reports and drafts related to the adoption of the Geneva Conventions, as well as the complete Proceedings of the Hague Peace Conferences of 1899 and 1907, which can be directly accessed at this link. This collection is useful for researchers looking for more context and discussion about the creation of particular treaties and specifically offers U.S. Government Documents articulating its position with regard to international obligations under relevant treaties.
The ICRC database provides access to dozens of IHL treaties organized by topic, State, and date. Note, however, that these are HTML copies of the treaties - they are NOT the official versions of the treaties. To conduct research using the official versions of IHL treaties, please see the instructions found on the UNC Law Library's Public International Law Research Guide.
The main topical areas for IHL treaties in the database are:
The database also contains a specific page dedicated to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Additional Protocols, which provides a convenient way to view the treaty and its later protocols in chronological order.
The Electronic Information System for International Law (EISIL) is maintained by the American Society of International Law, with the support of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The EISIL website provides researchers with access to primary materials, authoritative websites, and helpful research guides to international law.
The EISIL's page on IHL materials provides access to basic sources and alo provides the following topic-specific pages:
Each individual page provides links to IHL treaties materials. Again, note that these are usually links to unofficial sources online. In order to view a complete, reliable version of a treaty, you will need to obtain a citation to a treaty reporter series or view the treaty on the website of the depositary. To learn more about this type of research, please visit the UNC Law Library's Public International Law Research Guide.
HeinOnline's World Treaty Library provides access to a variety of treaty indexes and reporter series. This treaty database is particularly useful for older treaties, as the database offers access to treaties from 1648 to present. The "Treaty Index" offers multiple search options, including keywrods, title, country, citation, date, and subject area. (Access limited to UNC Community.)