The Geneva Conventions were adopted on August 12, 1949. Numerous expert meetings were organized in the lead-up to the adoption of the Conventions. These various forums produced a whole range of documents which remain relevant today for the interpretation and application of the Conventions.

René-Jean Wilhelm, a member of the team of legal experts who drafted the 1949 Conventions, and historian François Bugnion look back on this milestone in the history of international humanitarian law. © ICRC, V-F-CR-F-01475

15th International Conference of the Red Cross (Tokyo, 20-29 October 1934)

Tokyo Draft: Draft international Convention concerning the condition and the protection of civilians of enemy nationality in the territory of a belligerent or in a territory occupied by it (also available in French)

Rapport de la Conférence (only available in French):

  • Resolution n° XXXVII – Etude de certaines lois de la guerre (p. 261 of the Report)
  • Resolution n° XXXIX – Projet de convention concernant le sort des civils de nationalité ennemie (p. 262 of the Report)

Commission of international experts (Geneva, 15-16 October 1936)

Commission of naval experts (Geneva, 15-18 June 1937)

Commission of international experts (League of Red Cross Societies, Permanent Committee of the International Army Medical and Pharmaceutical Congresses, International Hospitals Association and Swiss experts) (Geneva, 19-23 October 1937)

16th International Conference of the Red Cross (London, 20-24 June 1938)

Report of the Conference (also available in French):

  • Resolution n° X: Draft Conventions (p. 103 of the Report)
  • Resolution n° XI: Hospital Towns and Hospital Areas (p. 104 of the Report)

Minutes of the 1st, 2nd, 3rd  and 4th Commissions (also available in French):

  • 1st Commission : General Commission
  • 2nd Commission : Legal Commission
  • 3rd Commission : Relief Commission
  • 4th Commission : The educational work of the Red Cross

Commission of military experts and international lawyers (Geneva, 21-22 October 1938)

Projet de 1938 pour la création de localités et zones sanitaires, réservées aux blessés et aux malades des armées (only available in French, reproduced in the report below on pages 198-201)

Rapport du Comité international de la Croix-Rouge sur le projet de convention pour la création de localités et zones sanitaires en temps de guerre, adopté par la commission d’experts réunie à Genève les 21 et 22 octobre 1938 (only available in French)



Memorandum (15 February 1945)

The Second World War had shown the need to expand the humanitarian conventions and thereby provide the civilian population with adequate protection at last. In a memorandum dated 15 February 1945 (only available in French [circular n° 368]), the ICRC announced that it was starting consultations for that purpose and asked for the support of governments and National Societies in gathering the necessary documentation.


Meeting of neutral members of the mixed Medical Commissions (Geneva, 27-28 September 1945)

Preliminary conference of the National Red Cross Societies for the study of the Conventions and of various problems relative to the Red Cross (Geneva, 26 July-3 August 1946)

Meeting for the study of treaty stipulations relative to the spiritual and intellectual needs of prisoners of war and civilian internees (Geneva, 3-4 March 1947)

Proceedings of the meeting (also available in French)

Conference of government experts for the study of Conventions for the protection of war victims (Geneva, 14-26 April 1947)

Special Commission of National Red Cross Societies (Geneva, 15-16 September 1947)

Documents remis aux délégués (only available in French)

Procès-verbaux (only available in French):

  • Séances 1 et 2 : Convention des blessés et des malades
  • Séances 3 et 4 : Xe Convention de la Haye; Convention du 27 juillet 1929 sur le traitement des prisonniers de guerre; et Convention pour la protection des civils

Report submitted by the French Red Cross on the work of the Special Commission to study proposed new conventions

17th International Conference of the Red Cross (Stockholm, 20-30 August 1948)

Draft Conventions submitted to the 1948 Stockholm Conference (also available in French)

Draft Conventions adopted by the 1948 Stockholm Conference (also available in French)

Report of the Stockholm Conference (also available in French):

  • Resolution n° XIX : Draft International Conventions (pp. 92-93 of the Report)

Sténogrammes (only available in French)

Résumé des débats (only available in French)

Documents pertaining to the work of the Legal Commission (also available in French)

Annex to the Legal Commission (also available in French)

ICRC remarks and proposals on the 1948 Stockholm Draft (also available in French)

Propositions and Observations of the Governments and other bodies on the 1948 Stockholm Draft:

  • Memorandum by the Government of the United Kingdom (also available in French)
  • Document presented by the International Labour Organisation: Draft Memorandum and Observations by Governments represented on the Governing body of the International Labour Office
  • Propositions by the Netherlands’ Government (also available in French)
  • Memorandum by the Government of Finland
  • Memorandum by the Italian Government (also available in French)
  • Memorandum by the Greek Government (also available in French)
  • Note émanant de l’Office central des Transports internationaux par Chemins de fer (only available in French)

Diplomatic Conference of 1949 (Geneva, 21 April-12 August 1949)


  • Geneva Convention (I)
  • Geneva Convention (II)
  • Geneva Convention (III)
  • Geneva Convention (IV)
    • original commentary : available in English and French
    • updated commentary : upcoming

Tableau synoptique chronologique des différentes réunions (only available in French)