The concept of war crimes, with trial and condemnation of those committing them, is not new. From the time of the 'classical' fathers until the end of the nineteenth century there is little to comment upon with regard to the law concerned with war crimes. This was until the promulgation of the Lieber Code in 1863 by US President Abraham Lincoln. While international law permits national tribunals to try war criminals, these tribunals are established under national law according to the jurisdictional limits and procedure established by that law, although the definition of war crimes is usually that prescribed by international law. Many of the crimes described in the London Charter as war crimes or crimes against humanity are synonymous with those named as grave breaches in the Geneva Conventions and Protocol I.
The practice of distinguishing between those wounded or sick in land and sea warfare resulted in the adoption of distinct Conventions at Geneva in 1949, but Protocol I, 1977, deals with the wounded, sick and shipwrecked collectively. For other prisoners of war, the Conventions relating to the care of the wounded, sick and shipwrecked are under the scrutiny of the Protecting Power and do not detract from the general humanitarian activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). In a land engagement, agreement may be reached between opposing commanders for the exchange, removal and transport of the wounded in the field. Whenever possible, similar arrangements should be made for the removal of the wounded and sick by land or sea from any besieged or encircled area and for the passage of medical personnel or chaplains proceeding to such an area.