International Humanitarian Law

International Humanitarian Law aims to limit the effects of armed conflict. It is only applied when there is a conflict. Therefore it is also known as the Law of War or the Law of the Armed Conflict. IHL is a part of a Public Interantional law.It doesn’t take any side it just works for the welfare of the people. IHL aims for the welfare of the people who are not participating in the war. When we talk about the origin of the IHL then many lawyers tend to believe that the IHL has come into the existence because of Henry Dunant who created the International Committee of the Red Cross and also instigate the tradition of the Geneva Convention.

The principle and the elements of the IHL can be seen in earlier history and in many religion-based texts. Therefore the source of the IHL can be said to be the customs and the general principle of the law. There are two main sources of the IHL-

  • Treaties – The most relevant sources of IHL are treaties applicable to the armed conflict in question. For example, in situations of international armed conflict, the most important sources of applicable
    IHL would be the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, their Additional Protocol I, and weapons treaties, such as the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons or the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.
  • Custom-  Many legal experts tend to believe that the IHL’s main source is the custom.the applicability of these custom source can be seen in the internal as well as the external conflict by the state.The principle of this source is applied to both side who are in conflict.

Fundamental to IHL are the following two principles:Persons who are not, or are no longer, participating in hostilities must be protected; and The right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited.

The First Geneva Convention gave a legal format to Dunant’s proposals. It also established general protection for military wounded and a special status for medical personnel. The conference also chose the Red Cross on a white background as the only sign of identification of all military-medical services.

The Essential Rule of the IHL states that the parties when in conflict shall never try to harm the civilians. The people who are not taking part in the war shall not be harmed. The person who gets wounded and sick shall be provided with treatment. The medical facility and the ICRC has to be spared. The vehicles or the establishments shall not be harmed, destroyed, or held into captivity.

International humanitarian law and international human rights law are two distinct but complementary bodies of law. They are both concerned with the protection of the life, health, and dignity of individuals. IHL applies in armed conflict while human rights law applies at all times, in peace and in war. There is confusion that IHL and Human Rights are the same concepts but they are not. Though their aims and objectives are almost similar.


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