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      “The Great Humanitarian”: The Soviet Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the Geneva Conventions of 1949

      Law and History Review
      Cambridge University Press (CUP)

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          Abstract

          The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are often seen as the product of Western European design and liberal humanitarianism. Based on a collection of Western and Soviet archival materials, this article reveals the Soviet delegation's mixed but critical legacy in developing the Conventions. The Soviets, acting in surprisingly close cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), were essential for supporting a range of groundbreaking plans to end ‘inhumane’ measures in war, from unrestrained colonial warfare to inhumane treatment. They made however some of these protections vulnerable due to their opposition to accepting stronger enforcement mechanisms, such as allowing the ICRC and Protecting Powers to visit their Gulag archipelago. By doing so, the Soviets helped to create the foundations for both the successes and failures of the Geneva Conventions.

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          The Humanization of Humanitarian Law

          The centennial of the Hague Convention (No. II; No. IV in the 1907 version) on the Laws and Customs of War on Land and the fiftieth anniversary of the four Geneva Conventions for the Protection of Victims of War of August 12, 1949, present an opportunity to reflect on the direction in which the law of war, or international humanitarian law, has been evolving. This essay focuses on the humanization of that law, a process driven to a large extent by human rights and the principles of humanity. As the subject is vast, major issues must inevitably be left out of my discussion, including the impact of the prohibitions on unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate warfare on the regulation of weapons, the proscription of antipersonnel land mines and blinding laser weapons, and the progression of international humanitarian law from largely protecting noncombatants to protecting combatants as well.
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            Forum Isolation: Social Opprobrium and the Origins of the International Law of Internal Conflict

            Why have states created international laws to regulate internal armed conflicts? This article is the first to theorize the emergence and design of these international rules, focusing on Common Article 3 to the 1949 Geneva Conventions. Drawing on original multicountry archival research, I develop the mechanism of forum isolation to explain the origins of Common Article 3, demonstrating the importance of social opprobrium pressure to explain why Britain and France switched from staunch opposition to support and leadership in 1949. Specifically, forum isolation pressured these European empires to concede and to react strategically behind the scenes, saving face and safeguarding their security interests by deliberately inserting ambiguous language in the text of Common Article 3. This move later facilitated states' avoidance of this rule in many conflict cases.
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              The Soviets at Nuremberg: International Law, Propaganda, and the Making of the Postwar Order

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                Author and article information

                Journal
                applab
                Law and History Review
                Law hist. rev.
                Cambridge University Press (CUP)
                0738-2480
                1939-9022
                February 2019
                March 13 2019
                February 2019
                : 37
                : 01
                : 209-235
                Article
                10.1017/S0738248019000014
                00e82cf3-05b5-4bb8-8ab2-6a37e208ba9e
                © 2019

                https://www.cambridge.org/core/terms

                History

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