Boyd van Dijk (King’s College London)

Faustian Lawmaking: ICRC-Soviet Relations and the Making of the 1949 Geneva Conventions”

The Geneva Conventions of 1949 are often seen as the product of Western European design and liberal humanitarianism. Based on a collection of different 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, were essential for supporting a range of groundbreaking plans to end ‘inhumane’ measures in war, from unrestrained colonial warfare to reprisals. 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.