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From Solferino to The Birth of Contemporary IHL

From Solferino to The Birth of Contemporary IHL

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Published by Wahab Chik
From Solferino to The Birth of Contemporary International Humanitarian Law;
François Bugnion;
Geneva, 22 April 2009
From Solferino to The Birth of Contemporary International Humanitarian Law;
François Bugnion;
Geneva, 22 April 2009

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Published by: Wahab Chik on May 17, 2012
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09/01/2012

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FROM SOLFERINO TO THE BIRTH OF CONTEMPORARYINTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
By François BugnionGeneva22 April 2009
 
2
FROM SOLFERINO TO THE BIRTH OF CONTEMPORARYINTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW
By François Bugnion
„Im Anfang wardie Tat“.
Goethe,
Faust 
.Verse 1237
I.
 
AFTERMATH OF A BATTLE
The early history of most institutions has been blurred by the passage of time. Even when theirinitial formcan be clearly discerned, it often bears little resemblance to the institution as weknow it today.The Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement is a striking exception -itcan be traced back to aprecise date, and its origins are relatively well known. This first phase is worth considering indetail,because it casts light on the entiresubsequent development of the Red Cross.
1
 
François B
UGNION
, is an independent consultant in humanitarian action and humanitarian law.He joined the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1970 and has served theorganization in Israel and the occupied territories, Bangladesh, Turkey and Cyprus, Chad, VietNam and Cambodia. From January 2000 to June 2006, he was Director for International Lawand Cooperation at the ICRC. This article elaborates on a presentation made at the 26
th
AnnualSeminar for Diplomats Accredited to the United Nations organised by the InternationalCommittee of the Red Cross and New York University School of Law and held at the Arthur T.Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, New York, on March 4 and 5, 2009.
1
In accordance with a practice that dates back over 100 years, the name
"International Red Cross"
, as well as the simplified term
"Red Cross"
, has been used in this article to designate theInternational Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, particularly when referring to a timewhere those expressions were currently used.
 
3On 24 June 1859 the armies of France and Sardinia engaged Austrian forces near the northernItalian village of Solferino. This decisive battle in the struggle for Italian unity was also themost horrific bloodbathEurope had known since Waterloo: in ten hours of fierce fighting,more than 6,000 soldiers were killed and more than 30,000 wounded.
2
The medical services of the Franco-Sardinian armies were totally overwhelmed, exposing thenegligence of the supply corps: the French army had more veterinary surgeons than doctors;transport was woefully inadequate; crates of field dressings were dumped far from the frontline and sent back to Paris, unopened, at the end of the campaign. General de la Bollardière,FrenchQuartermaster-General, reported that it took six days to bring in 10,212 wounded fromthe field.
3
Helped by their comrades, leaning on makeshift crutches or on their rifles, the woundedsoldiers staggered to nearby villages in search of food, water, first aid and shelter. More than9,000 of them came to the small town of Castiglione delle Stiviere, where invalids soonoutnumbered the able-bodied.
4
The wounded were everywhere -in houses, barns andchurches, or filling up the squares and lanes.On the evening of 24 June a young man from Geneva, Henry Dunant, arrived in Castiglione. Abanker by profession, he was travelling on urgent private business and had no particularmedical knowledge, but he was too compassionate to be able to disregard the pain and distressaround him: for several days and nights he worked at the “
Chiesa Maggiore”,
a churchsheltering more than 500 wounded. He gave them water to ease their thirst; he cleaned theirwounds, changed dressings; he sent his coachman to the city of Bresciato buy clothfordressings, pipes and tobacco, herbal infusions and fruit; he enlisted the aid of charitable localwomen to tend the injured and dying; he wrote to his friends at home to ask for supplies. Inshort, he set an example and tried to organize help so as to alleviate, as far as possible, thesuffering which confronted him.
 
2
Dr. J.-C. C
HENU
,
Statistique médico-chirurgicale de la Campagne d'Italie en 1859 et 1860
,Librairie militaire de J. Dumaine, Paris, 1869, vol. II, pp. 851-853.
3
Quoted by Pierre B
OISSIER
,
 History of the International Committee of the Red Cross: FromSolferino to Tsushima
, Henry Dunant Institute, Geneva, 1985, p. 22 (original French edition,Plon, Paris, 1963).

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