ON INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN LAW ____________________________________
What is International Humanitarian Law?
What is internationalhumanitarian law?
International humanitarian law is aset of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons,
to limit the effects of armed conflict.
It protectspersons who are not or are nolonger participating in the hostilitiesand restricts the means andmethods of warfare. Internationalhumanitarian law is also known asthe law of war or the law of armedconflict.International humanitarian law ispart of international law, which is thebody of rules governing relationsbetween States. International law iscontained in agreements betweenStates – treaties or conventions –, incustomary rules, which consist of State practise considered by themas legally binding, and in generalprinciples.International humanitarian lawapplies to armed conflicts. It doesnot regulate whether a State mayactually use force; this is governedby an important, but distinct, part of international law set out in theUnited Nations Charter.
Where did internationalhumanitarian law originate?
International humanitarian law isrooted in the rules of ancientcivilizations and religions – warfarehas always been subject to certainprinciples and customs.Universal codification of international humanitarian lawbegan in the nineteenth century.Since then, States have agreed to aseries of practical rules, based onthe bitter experience of modernwarfare. These rules strike a carefulbalance between humanitarianconcerns and the militaryrequirements of States. As the international community hasgrown, an increasing number of States have contributed to thedevelopment of those rules.International humanitarian law formstoday a universal body of law.
Where is internationalhumanitarian law to be found?
A major part of internationalhumanitarian law is contained in thefour
Geneva Conventions of 1949
.Nearly every State in the world hasagreed to be bound by them. TheConventions have been developedand supplemented by two further agreements: the
AdditionalProtocols of 1977 relating to theprotection of victims of armedconflicts
.Other agreements prohibit the useof certain weapons and militarytactics and protect certaincategories of people and goods.These agreements include:
the 1954 Convention for theProtection of Cultural Propertyin the Event of Armed Conflict,plus its two protocols;
the 1972 Biological WeaponsConvention;
the 1980 ConventionalWeapons Convention and itsfive protocols;
the 1993 Chemical WeaponsConvention;
the 1997 Ottawa Convention onanti-personnel mines;
the 2000 Optional Protocol tothe Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.Many provisions of internationalhumanitarian law are now acceptedas customary law – that is, asgeneral rules by which all States arebound.
When does internationalhumanitarian law apply?
International humanitarian lawapplies only to armed conflict; itdoes not cover internal tensions or disturbances such as isolated actsof violence. The law applies onlyonce a conflict has begun, and thenequally to all sides regardless of who started the fighting.International humanitarian lawdistinguishes between internationaland non-international armed conflict.
International armed conflicts
arethose in which at least two Statesare involved. They are subject to awide range of rules, including thoseset out in the four GenevaConventions and AdditionalProtocol I.
Non-international armed conflicts
are those restricted to the territory of a single State, involving either regular armed forces fighting groupsof armed dissidents, or armedgroups fighting each other. A morelimited range of rules apply tointernal armed conflicts and are laiddown in Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions as well as in Additional Protocol II.It is important to differentiatebetween international