International Humanitarian Law

  1. What is IHL?

Also referred to as law of armed conflict as well as the law of war, IHL, are rules seeking the  limitation of the armed conflict’s effects and protecting the civilians and non-civilians through the restriction of the methods and means of the warfare (Klabbers, 2013, p. 203). It deals with jus in bello limits human suffering due to inevitable consequence of war by protecting particularly vulnerable people.

  1. Where did it originate from?

IHL began when Henri Dunant started the movement in 1859 after the Franco-Austrian battle of Soferino (Klabbers, 2013, p. 203). The movement later became the International Committee of the Red Cross. This Geneva Convention of 1864 resulted in the first universally acceptable codification of IHL. It created internationally acceptable laws that govern the conduct and treatment of people in warfare (Kolb, 2014, p. 94).

  1. What are the sources of IHL?

The sources of IHL include the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1904 that limit the conduct of warfare by belligerent states. Another source is the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 supplemented by the 2 1977 Additional Protocols. In addition, there is the Genocide Convention of 1948 as well as agreements such as The 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict; The 1997 Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines; The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention; The 1980 Conventional Weapons Convention and its five protocols; The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention; and The 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, plus its two protocols (Klabbers, 2013, p. 209).

  1. Does IHL apply only to international conflicts?

Yes, IHL applies to international conflicts only, commonly referred to as the armed conflicts; however, it fails to cover or apply to internal disturbances or tensions, for instance, isolated acts of violence (Klabbers, 2013, p. 204). IHL is only applicable after the start of a conflict, but after that, it is equally applicable to both the sides irrespective of the starters of the war.

  1. Outline and critically analyze the scope of IHL.

IHL covers only two areas namely protecting civilians and non-combatants; and confining the means of war, for instance, weapons, as well as the methods of war, for instance, military tactics (Klabbers, 2013, p. 204). The two areas are effective in ensuring the lives, physical and mental integrity of the non combatants are protected and treated humanely in all circumstances. They also safeguard the welfare and health of the PoWs.

  1. Discuss the principles embodied by IHL

IHL embodies principles such as the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants requires prohibition of methods and means that cannot draw the clearest possible distinction between the two; the principle of proportionality which prohibits attacks that results in more harm to the civilians than the expected military advantage even if there is clear military target (Klabbers, 2013, p. 205). The principle of precaution in attack supplements distinction between combatants and civilians, precautions should be taken in attacks at all times. Military necessity justifies attacks on the legitimate military targets even if they have terrible consequences on the civilians (Kolb, 2014, p. 94).

  1. What are the enforcement mechanisms of IHL? Who monitors that IHL is respected? Do they work in practice?

To enforce IHL, national governments have to implement their IHL treaty obligations. IHL is enforced by self induced limitations of the inherent States in the conduct of armed conflicts, adhering to bilateral treaties and national laws and observing the time-honored customary rules. The International Committee of the Red Cross monitors that IHL is respected under the Geneva Conventions (Klabbers, 2013, p. 2011). They work in practice as they have helped in creating tribunals that punishes acts committed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.

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