In the aftermath of World War II, countries met in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1949 to draft four treaties (conventions) and three additional protocols that establish standards for the humanitarian treatment during war. The Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular, would also “apply to all cases of partial or total occupation of the territory of a High Contracting Party, even if the said occupation meets with no armed resistance. (Article 2).” The Convention also provides protection to “those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals (Article 4).”
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Nationals who are “protected persons” under the Convention are protected from, “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health, unlawful deportation or transfer or unlawful confinement of a protected person, compelling a protected person to serve in the forces of a hostile Power, or willfully depriving a protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial prescribed in the present Convention, taking of hostages and extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly (Article 147).” Violation of these rights of “protected persons” constitute a “war crimes.”
There are currently 194 countries who are High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. Of the High Contracting Parties, 193 comprise all of the member States of the United Nations, and 1 is a non-member State of the United Nations, Cook Islands.
On November 28, 2012, the acting government of the Hawaiian Kingdom signed the instrument of accession acceding to the Fourth Geneva Convention for the protection of the civilian population during Hawai‘i’s occupation, and on January 14, 2013, the instrument was deposited with the Swiss Federal Council in Berne, Switzerland. Pursuant to Article 157, the Convention took immediate effect from the date of the deposit because Hawai‘i is currently under occupation.
By acceding to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the Hawaiian Kingdom, as a State, became a High Contracting Party and its territory now comes under the Fourth Geneva Convention and Hawaiian nationals are presently considered “protected persons.” The International Criminal Court prosecutes perpetrators who commit war crimes that violate the rights of “protected persons” as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention.
UPDATE: This posting was withheld for the past two weeks until confirmation of the receipt of the instrument of accession could be obtained. It is confirmed that the deposit of the instrument of accession took place on January 14, 2013.