WikiLeaks and the Geneva Convention

In 1859, Henry Dunant, a Swiss merchant, witnessed the aftermath of the battle of Solferino and San Martino, where the French and Sardinian armies defeated the Austrian army. The large number of troops involved in this extremely grueling battle resulted in many thousands of dead, missing, or captured, and tens of thousands of wounded were left dying on the battlefields. Horrified by what he saw, Dunant appealed to the local population to help, asking that all of the wounded be cared for, regardless of origin.

Dunant decided to share the horrors of war with the world in the book, A memory of Solferino, published in 1862. In it, he made the case for a neutral cadre of nurses ready to provide medical care to the wounded in wartime. These volunteer nurses were to be recognized and protected through international agreements. The idea of the Red Cross came to life, and in 1863, the Red Cross was recognized as an institution.

In1864, the "Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field" was adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in Geneva. The ten articles contained in this agreement represent the first treaty of international humanitarian law, as well as the first of four Geneva Conventions. In 1899, in The Hague, similar principles were adopted in reference to maritime wars. Then, in 1907, it was determined that all combatants' categories were entitled to adequate treatment during captivity.

Following WWII, with its dire consequences for the civilian population, at the fourth Geneva Convention, held in 1949, provisions for the protection of civilians in wartime, including occupied territories, were incorporated. In 1977, two protocols were added to the four conventions, conceived to further strengthen the protection for victims of international and non-international armed conflict. In 2005, a third protocol was adopted to include the Red Crystal Distinctive Emblem for medical services alongside the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.

The treaties of the 1949 Geneva Convention and most of its articles have been ratified by 194 countries. Moreover, the ICRC made itself responsible for the conventions' evolution in order to remain current with changes in warfare. Banning the use of certain weapons, such as landmines and blinding weapons, is currently under consideration. 

There are, however, no Geneva Conventions or Protocols protecting the victims of asymmetrical warfare perpetrated by international terrorism and groups like Hamas, Hezb'allah, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Since the recent release of the classified Pentagon papers on WikiLeaks, the Taliban has not only made threats to kill the Afghani collaborators named in the released papers, but also reportedly already murdered a tribal leader. And as a matter of course, the protector of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, has also claimed responsibility for executing a team of ten medical aides comprising six Americans, a Briton, a German, and two Afghans in the distant northeast of Afghanistan.

Nations fighting terrorism are subject to the Geneva Conventions, while the terrorist groups are not. Additional articles and protocols are absolutely necessary to cover terrorist acts and military action, as well as the individuals and nations that fund, supply, and protect terror organizations within their own borders and elsewhere. The same ought to be true for cyber-crimes, such as the unrestricted disclosure of military classified material on the internet. 

WikiLeaks describes itself as "a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public."  By "sensitive materials," WikiLeaks means secret, classified, proprietary material not intended for public consumption. WikiLeaks further appointed itself as adjudicator of "transparency in government activities," which it believes "leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies." WikiLeaks further states that "We believe this scrutiny requires information" and "with technological advances the internet, and cryptography -- the risks of conveying important information can be lowered."

Would WikiLeaks, as well as those dutiful contributing whistle-blowers, journalists, and activists who approve it, countenance the release of their own medical and psychiatric histories, their financial information, and so forth? Or would they prefer the protection of the laws for their privacy? Given that posting classified information breaks laws practically everywhere, the rest of us theoretically need that "sensitive" information about WikiLeaks in order to decide for ourselves who is actually providing a valuable and "multi-jurisdictional public service." How does WikiLeaks' biased agenda makes it morally superior to the governments and agencies whose secret materials it exposes?

The self-righteousness, arrogance, and ignorance of WikiLeaks and its contributors, in releasing classified documents regarding ongoing warfare, provide our enemies with information that they would otherwise be unable to obtain. The consequences can easily include destruction and death not only in the military theatre, but also in the country of origin. Furthermore, the act of releasing war-related classified documents by WikiLeaks, or by any other source, establishes a most disturbing precedent.

Additional releases of secret information will involve not only military information, but potentially other matters of state, international commerce, business and personal secrets, classified research, legal matters, and other proprietary information. And such disclosures would undoubtedly result in harmful consequences, intended or unintended.

The Geneva Conventions should take a hard look at the internet as having the potential to become the present-day "Tower of Babel." The ICRC should accelerate the development of new protocols needed to protect nations and people from these new high-tech threats. 

It bears repeating: If a nation does not act in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, it can be held accountable. If zealots devoid of conscience inspire or cause actionable conditions for escalating military conflicts or creating new ones, they should also be held fully accountable, along with their host nations and sponsors.

Given the potential volatility built into the nature of most relations -- business, personal, and international -- WikiLeaks has created a new level of crime that will negatively impact the entire world for a long time to come, in ways we cannot even conceive yet. This global pursuit by WikiLeaks resulting in the release of classified military material must be stopped now. Such actions have the potential to become far more destructive crimes than the use of landmines and blinding weapons. The time to act has come, as the interests of the entire world community are at stake.

Daniel Pascal is a freelance writer based in New York. Contact: daniel_pascal@ymail.com
In 1859, Henry Dunant, a Swiss merchant, witnessed the aftermath of the battle of Solferino and San Martino, where the French and Sardinian armies defeated the Austrian army. The large number of troops involved in this extremely grueling battle resulted in many thousands of dead, missing, or captured, and tens of thousands of wounded were left dying on the battlefields. Horrified by what he saw, Dunant appealed to the local population to help, asking that all of the wounded be cared for, regardless of origin.

Dunant decided to share the horrors of war with the world in the book, A memory of Solferino, published in 1862. In it, he made the case for a neutral cadre of nurses ready to provide medical care to the wounded in wartime. These volunteer nurses were to be recognized and protected through international agreements. The idea of the Red Cross came to life, and in 1863, the Red Cross was recognized as an institution.

In1864, the "Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded in Armies in the Field" was adopted at a Diplomatic Conference in Geneva. The ten articles contained in this agreement represent the first treaty of international humanitarian law, as well as the first of four Geneva Conventions. In 1899, in The Hague, similar principles were adopted in reference to maritime wars. Then, in 1907, it was determined that all combatants' categories were entitled to adequate treatment during captivity.

Following WWII, with its dire consequences for the civilian population, at the fourth Geneva Convention, held in 1949, provisions for the protection of civilians in wartime, including occupied territories, were incorporated. In 1977, two protocols were added to the four conventions, conceived to further strengthen the protection for victims of international and non-international armed conflict. In 2005, a third protocol was adopted to include the Red Crystal Distinctive Emblem for medical services alongside the Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems.

The treaties of the 1949 Geneva Convention and most of its articles have been ratified by 194 countries. Moreover, the ICRC made itself responsible for the conventions' evolution in order to remain current with changes in warfare. Banning the use of certain weapons, such as landmines and blinding weapons, is currently under consideration. 

There are, however, no Geneva Conventions or Protocols protecting the victims of asymmetrical warfare perpetrated by international terrorism and groups like Hamas, Hezb'allah, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Since the recent release of the classified Pentagon papers on WikiLeaks, the Taliban has not only made threats to kill the Afghani collaborators named in the released papers, but also reportedly already murdered a tribal leader. And as a matter of course, the protector of Osama bin Laden, the Taliban, has also claimed responsibility for executing a team of ten medical aides comprising six Americans, a Briton, a German, and two Afghans in the distant northeast of Afghanistan.

Nations fighting terrorism are subject to the Geneva Conventions, while the terrorist groups are not. Additional articles and protocols are absolutely necessary to cover terrorist acts and military action, as well as the individuals and nations that fund, supply, and protect terror organizations within their own borders and elsewhere. The same ought to be true for cyber-crimes, such as the unrestricted disclosure of military classified material on the internet. 

WikiLeaks describes itself as "a multi-jurisdictional public service designed to protect whistleblowers, journalists and activists who have sensitive materials to communicate to the public."  By "sensitive materials," WikiLeaks means secret, classified, proprietary material not intended for public consumption. WikiLeaks further appointed itself as adjudicator of "transparency in government activities," which it believes "leads to reduced corruption, better government and stronger democracies." WikiLeaks further states that "We believe this scrutiny requires information" and "with technological advances the internet, and cryptography -- the risks of conveying important information can be lowered."

Would WikiLeaks, as well as those dutiful contributing whistle-blowers, journalists, and activists who approve it, countenance the release of their own medical and psychiatric histories, their financial information, and so forth? Or would they prefer the protection of the laws for their privacy? Given that posting classified information breaks laws practically everywhere, the rest of us theoretically need that "sensitive" information about WikiLeaks in order to decide for ourselves who is actually providing a valuable and "multi-jurisdictional public service." How does WikiLeaks' biased agenda makes it morally superior to the governments and agencies whose secret materials it exposes?

The self-righteousness, arrogance, and ignorance of WikiLeaks and its contributors, in releasing classified documents regarding ongoing warfare, provide our enemies with information that they would otherwise be unable to obtain. The consequences can easily include destruction and death not only in the military theatre, but also in the country of origin. Furthermore, the act of releasing war-related classified documents by WikiLeaks, or by any other source, establishes a most disturbing precedent.

Additional releases of secret information will involve not only military information, but potentially other matters of state, international commerce, business and personal secrets, classified research, legal matters, and other proprietary information. And such disclosures would undoubtedly result in harmful consequences, intended or unintended.

The Geneva Conventions should take a hard look at the internet as having the potential to become the present-day "Tower of Babel." The ICRC should accelerate the development of new protocols needed to protect nations and people from these new high-tech threats. 

It bears repeating: If a nation does not act in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, it can be held accountable. If zealots devoid of conscience inspire or cause actionable conditions for escalating military conflicts or creating new ones, they should also be held fully accountable, along with their host nations and sponsors.

Given the potential volatility built into the nature of most relations -- business, personal, and international -- WikiLeaks has created a new level of crime that will negatively impact the entire world for a long time to come, in ways we cannot even conceive yet. This global pursuit by WikiLeaks resulting in the release of classified military material must be stopped now. Such actions have the potential to become far more destructive crimes than the use of landmines and blinding weapons. The time to act has come, as the interests of the entire world community are at stake.

Daniel Pascal is a freelance writer based in New York. Contact: daniel_pascal@ymail.com

RECENT VIDEOS