Evelin: International Humanitarian Law

International humanitarian law (IHL) protects people in times of armed conflict who are no longer taking part in hostilities. It regulates only those aspects of the conflict which are of humanitarian concern. The purpose of IHL is to limit the suffering caused by war, by protecting and assisting its victims as much as possible.

IHL has to branches: 1)      The law of Geneva, which is designed to protect military personnel who are no longer taking part in the fighting and people who are not actively involved in hostilities (e.g. civilians).

2)      The law of Hague, which establishes the rights and obligations of belligerents in the conduct of military operations and limits the means of harming the enemy.

The essential rules of IHL are: 1)      Attacks may be made solely against military objectives (but it is prohibited to attack military objectives if that would cause harm to civilians or civilian objects).

2)      People who do not or can no longer take part in the hostilities are entitled to respect for their lives and for their physical and mental integrity. Such people must in all circumstances be protected and treated with humanity, without any unfavorable distinction. It is forbidden to kill or wound an adversary who surrenders or who can no longer take part in the fighting.

3)      The parties to the conflict or members of their armed forces can not choose methods of warfare. It is forbidden to use weapons or methods of warfare that are likely to cause unnecessary losses or suffering.

4)      The wounded and sick must be collected and cared for by the party which has them in its power.

5) Captured combatants and civilians who are under the authority of the adverse party are entitled to respect for their lives, their dignity, their personal rights and their political, religious and other convictions. They must be protected against all acts of violence or reprisal. They have a right to exchange news with their families and receive aid. Basic judicial guarantees must be provided for them.

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