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INTERNATIONAL

HUMANITARIAN LAW
An Overview

Kelisiana Thynne, ICRC Regional Legal Advisor for


South East Asia
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Overview: International
Humanitarian Law

t a branch of public international law;


t established by custom or treaty;
t applicable in time of armed conflict;

t protects persons who are not, or no longer,


participating in the hostilities, as well as certain
places and objects;
t restricts the rights of the warring parties to use the
methods and means of warfare of their choice;
States

International
Organisations

Armed groups

Individuals
INTERNATIONAL HUMANITARIAN
LAW

• protects persons who are not, or no longer,


participating in the hostilities, as well as
certain places and objects;
• restricts the rights of the warring parties to
use the means and methods of warfare of
their choice
AIM OF IHL
When does IHL apply?

• Only during armed


conflict
„ International
„ Non-international
• Not disturbances,
riots, other
situations of
violence
Legal frameworks applicable to
situations of violence

IHL IHL IHL

IHRL IHRL IHRL IHRL


IHRL
National National National National National
law law law law law

Armed
conflict

OSV NIAC IAC


Jus ad bellum
= United Nations Charter

Ø Prohibition of the use of force, except


§ self defence (individual or collective)
§ authorization of the Security Council (Ch. VII)
Jus in bello
= International Humanitarian Law

Ø IHL must be fully applied in all circumstances to


all persons who are protected... without any
adverse distinction based on
§ the nature or origin of the conflict
§ the cause espoused by or attributed to the
Parties
International criminal law

• War crimes – IHL


• But also crimes
against humanity
and genocide –
can apply in peace
and conflict
• Aggression –
commencing a war
– IHL does not
apply
WHERE IS IHL FOUND?
• For 1000s of years, countries and armed
groups have had rules of warfare, whether
permanent or temporary, or based on
custom or tradition which respected the
needs of wounded, captured and civilians
during armed conflict.
The origins of modern
international humanitarian law

• 1859 – Battle of Solferino


• 1862 – "A Memory of
Solferino"
„ creation of relief societies for
the care of the wounded
„ international treaty for the
protection of the sick and the
wounded on the battlefield
The origins of modern
international humanitarian law

• 1864 – (First) Geneva


Convention
«protect soldiers wounded during
combat, regardless of nationality
«protect those providing assistance
«protect military ambulances and
hospitals, which are recognized as
neutral
«use of the red cross emblem as the
sign of identification for medical
services
The origins of modern
international humanitarian law

• 1863 – Lieber Code

• 1868 – Declaration of
St-Petersburg

• 1899/1907 – The
Hague Conventions
The origins of modern
international humanitarian law

• 1868 –Additions to
the Geneva
Convention of 1864
• 1906 – Convention
of 1906 (revision of 1864
Convention)
• 1929 – Convention
of 1929 (revision of 1906
Convention)
• 1929 – Convention
relative to the
Treatment of
Prisoners of War
4 Wounded and Sick (Land)

4 Wounded, Sick and


Shipwrecked (Sea)

4 Prisoners of War

4 Civilian Persons (in the


power of the enemy)
4 International Armed
Conflicts (IAC)

4 Non International Armed


Conflicts (NIAC)

4 Additional Distinctive
Emblem
CAN YOU NAME OTHER
TREATIES RELATED TO IHL?
1899/1907 – The Hague Conventions (laws & customs of war)
• 1925 – Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use of Asphyxiating Gases
1949 – Four Geneva Conventions
• 1954 – Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property
• 1972 – Biological Weapons Convention
1977 – Two Additional Protocols to the GC
• 1980 – Conventional Weapons Convention (and Protocols)
• 1993 – Chemical Weapons Convention
• 1997 – Convention on the Ban of Anti-personnel Landmines
1998 – Statute of the International Criminal Court
• 1999 –Protocol II to the Hague Convention of 1954
• 2000 – Opt. Prot. on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict
• 2005 – Additional Protocol III on an Additional Distinctive Emblem
• 2008 – Convention on Cluster Munitions
• 2013 - Arms Trade Treaty?
Customary International
Humanitarian Law

161 rules identified:


§ 13 only applicable in international
armed conflicts (IAC)
§ 2 only applicable in non international
armed conflicts (NIAC)
§ 3 have different formulations in IAC and
NIAC
§ 146 rules applicable in both NIAC and
NIAC
ICRC Activities on IHL
• Prevention (Implementation into domestic law,
training, doctrine, academic research…)
• Development of the law (strengthening IHL,
drafting treaties, interpreting the law)

• Confidential bilateral dialogue (conduct of


hostilities and detention)
Principles of IHL
• Humanity
• Necessity
• Proportionality
• Distinction
• Prohibition on causing unnecessary
suffering
Protection of persons not taking part,
or no longer taking part, in hostilities
Who is entitled to protection?

• Civilians not directly participating in


hostilities
• Medical and religious personnel in the
armed forces and armed groups
• Those hors de combat (eg PWs, white
flag, wounded, sick and shipwrecked, etc)

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 Direct attacks
§ on the civilian population
§ on individual civilians
§ on civilian objects
 Indiscriminate attacks:
§ are not directed at a specific military
objective;
§ those which employ a method or means of
combat which cannot be directed at a specific
military objective; or
§ those which employ a method or means of
combat the effects of which cannot be limited
as required by [IHL].
 Indiscriminate attacks (disproportionate):
§ attacks in the knowledge that they will cause
incidental loss of life or injury to civilians or
damage to civilian objects … which would be
excessive in relation to the concrete and
direct military advantage anticipated.
Who is a civilian?
Limitations on means and methods of
warfare
The right of the parties to
the conflict to choose the
means and methods of
warfare is not unlimited.
Additional Protocol I art 35(1)
It is prohibited to employ
weapons, projectiles and
materials and methods of
warfare of a nature to
cause superfluous injury or
unnecessary suffering.
Additional Protocol I art 35(2)
It is prohibited to employ
methods or means of warfare
which are intended, or may be
expected, to cause
widespread, long-term and
severe damage to the natural
environment.

Additional Protocol I art 35(3)


Open book quiz