Of War and Law


International humanitarian law is part of the body of international law that governs relations between States. IHL aims to limit the effects of armed conflicts for humanitarian reasons. It aims to protect persons who are not or are no longer taking part in hostilities, the sick and wounded, prisoners and civilians, and to define the rights and obligations of the parties to a conflict in the conduct of hostilities.

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Because it is law, IHL imposes obligations on those engaged in armed conflict. Not only must they respect the law, they have an obligation to ensure respect as well. It is not acceptable to turn a blind eye.

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The first was signed by 16 countries in For centuries before then, rules had applied to the conduct of war, but they were based on custom and tradition, were local or just temporary. The initiative for the first convention came from five citizens of Geneva. One of them, Henry Dunant, had, by chance, witnessed the battle of Solferino in He was appalled by the lack of help for the wounded and organized local residents to come to their aid.

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Out of this act came one of the key elements of the first convention — the humane treatment of those no longer part of the battle, regardless of which side they were on. It was at this time, too, that a neutral protective sign for those helping the victims of conflict was adopted; a red cross on a white background, the exact reverse of the Swiss flag.

Combatants also must be commanded by a responsible officer. That is, a commander can be held liable in a court of law for the improper actions of his or her subordinates. There is an exception to this if the war came on so suddenly that there was no time to organize a resistance, e. Modern laws of war, specifically within Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions , prohibits attacking persons parachuting from an aircraft in distress regardless of what territory they are over.

Once they land in territory controlled by the enemy, they must be given an opportunity to surrender before being attacked unless it is apparent that they are engaging in a hostile act or attempting to escape. This prohibition does not apply to the dropping of airborne troops , special forces , commandos , spies , saboteurs , liaison officers , and intelligence agents. Thus, such personnel descending by parachutes are legitimate targets and, therefore, may be attacked, even if their aircraft is in distress. It is also prohibited to fire at a person or vehicle bearing a white flag , since that indicates an intent to surrender or a desire to communicate.

In fact, engaging in war activities under a protected symbol is itself a violation of the laws of war known as perfidy. Failure to follow these requirements can result in the loss of protected status and make the individual violating the requirements a lawful target.

Of War and Law

The law of war is binding not only upon States as such but also upon individuals and, in particular, the members of their armed forces. Parties are bound by the laws of war to the extent that such compliance does not interfere with achieving legitimate military goals. For example, they are obliged to make every effort to avoid damaging people and property not involved in combat or the war effort , but they are not guilty of a war crime if a bomb mistakenly or incidentally hits a residential area.

By the same token, combatants that intentionally use protected people or property as human shields or camouflage are guilty of violations of the laws of war and are responsible for damage to those that should be protected. The use of contracted combatants in warfare has been an especially tricky situation for the laws of war. Some scholars claim that private security contractors appear so similar to state forces that it is unclear if acts of war are taking place by private or public agents.

During conflict, punishment for violating the laws of war may consist of a specific, deliberate and limited violation of the laws of war in reprisal.

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After a conflict has ended, persons who have committed or ordered any breach of the laws of war, especially atrocities, may be held individually accountable for war crimes through process of law. Also, nations which signed the Geneva Conventions are required to search for, then try and punish, anyone who has committed or ordered certain "grave breaches" of the laws of war.

Third Geneva Convention , Article and Article Combatants who break specific provisions of the laws of war are termed unlawful combatants.

Unlawful combatants who have been captured may lose the status and protections that would otherwise be afforded to them as prisoners of war , but only after a " competent tribunal " has determined that they are not eligible for POW status e. At that point, an unlawful combatant may be interrogated, tried, imprisoned, and even executed for their violation of the laws of war pursuant to the domestic law of their captor, but they are still entitled to certain additional protections, including that they be "treated with humanity and, in case of trial, shall not be deprived of the rights of fair and regular trial.

In the Luanda Trial , after "a regularly constituted court" found them guilty of being unlawful mercenaries , three Britons and an American were shot by a firing squad on July 10, Nine others were imprisoned for terms of 16 to 30 years. List of declarations, conventions, treaties, and judgments on the laws of war: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For the Supernatural episode, see Jus in Bello Supernatural.

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Sources of international humanitarian law

Modern war is law pursued by other means. Once a bit player in military conflict, law now shapes the institutional, logistical, and physical. Modern war is law pursued by other means. Once a bit player in military conflict, law now shapes the institutional, logistical, and physical landscape of war.

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War and international humanitarian law

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Use of Depleted Uranium Projectiles". Methods and means of warfare. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone. In other projects Wikimedia Commons. The initiative for the first convention came from five citizens of Geneva.

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