Human rights and the law of war : the Geneva Conventions of 1949
William I. Hitchcock
The human rights revolution : an international history
New York : Oxford University Press, 2012
Do the Geneva Conventions of 1949-the cornerstone of international humanitarian law-belong in the history of human rights? It seems not: most surveys of human rights history neglect the Conventions entirely. Historians rarely place Geneva alongside other founding documents of the "human rights revolution" of the 1940s. To be sure, historians of human rights will argue that the Geneva Conventions do not figure prominently in their work because the Conventions form part of the laws of war. Yet this defense-that Geneva does not belong in the human rights "story"-has of late been fatally undermined. Powerful forces have combined to bring Geneva to the forefront of human rights debates. Scholars of international humanitarian law have recently noted that during the post-1945 period, the laws of war and human rights converged. Today, legal scholars-if not historians-generally consider the Geneva Conventions as one of a series of international treaties that form part of the human rights regime, and that compel states to recognize and respect the inalienable right of individuals to exist in freedom, security, and dignity.