The Limits of Impartiality

Now that in Australian politics the United Nations are relegated to ‘no longer relevant’ and the conventions so hard fought over are merrily disregarded, it seems increasingly important to analyse the making of the protection of civilians during war and conflict, and the protection afforded refugees.

In a joint project with three interlocking case studies Tessa Morris-Suzuki (ANU), Keiko Tamura (ANU) and I examined the crucial period of the first half of the 20th century, when the Geneva Conventions for Prisoners of War (1929) were applied to civilians – the 1934 Tokyo draft was never ratified – and reworked to become the conventions for POW and for civilians in 1949.

I am examining the work of the first delegation of the International Committee of the Red Cross during WWII (George and Eugenie Morel), which started in Australia because of civilian internees! The Germans, actually, insisted, when 2000 internees were shipped during the Blitz from England to Australia. What the Germans missed is that only about 200 were pro-Nazi, the rest – the Dunera boys – were Jewish refugees.

Read further in: Christine Winter, ‘Limits of impartiality: The delegates of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Australia during the Second World War’, History Australia, Vol. 10 No. 2 2013, pp. 56-74.

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