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A Brief Explanation of International Humanitarian Law

The international humanitarian law is widely known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict. Its primary goal is to protect vulnerable people who are not participating or are no longer involved in the hostilities by restricting the means and methods of warfare.

A brief history of the international humanitarian law

Warfare has always been subject to certain rules, principles, and customs. Even in ancient eras, there was a protocol for warfare. However, a code of conduct for universal international warfare was never developed until the nineteenth century. Since then, States agreed to a series of practical rules, based on the bitter experience of modern warfare like the WO I, WO II and many civil wars that continuously raged on many different continents. We have witnessed numerous wars on the most uncommon locations during our decades-long active period as a travel management company. Every single one of them was terrifying, destructive and suffering-causing. 

A principal part of the international humanitarian law was constructed during the four famous Geneva Conventions of 1949. As a result of World War II, all four earlier conventions were revised based on previous revisions and some of the 1907 Hague Conventions. They were readopted by the international community in 1949. Fortunately, nearly every State in the world has consented to abide by them.
The international humanitarian law is designed to protect those who are not, or no longer, taking part in the fighting. It consists of some ground rules including;

  • Persons who are outside of combat and those who are not taking part in hostilities in the situation of armed conflict shall be protected in all circumstances.
  • The wounded and the sick shall be cared for and protected by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. The emblem of the "Red Cross," or of the "Red Crescent," shall be required to be respected as the sign of protection.
  • Captured persons must be protected against acts of violence and reprisals. They shall have the right to correspond with their families and to receive relief.
  • No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • Parties to a conflict do not have an unlimited choice of methods and means of warfare.

Parties to a conflict shall at all times distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Attacks shall be directed solely towards legitimate military targets.

The Conventions have been developed and supplemented by two further agreements: the Additional Protocols of 1977 relating to the protection of victims of armed conflicts. Other agreements prohibit the use of certain weapons and military tactics and protect certain categories of people and goods. They include:

  • The 1954 Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict, together with its two protocols
  • The 1972 Biological Weapons Convention
  • The 1980 Conventional Weapons Convention and its five protocols
  • The 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention
  • The 1997 Ottawa Convention on anti-personnel mines
  • The 2000 Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict

A feeling of disconsolate sets in because there are countless examples of violation of the international humanitarian law. It’s a good thing the international humanitarian law was signed. But, we must not forget the fact that war destroys lives and causes suffering every single day. We are propelled by the compassionate, faith-based missionaries, volunteers and aid workers who’re playing their roles to help those who need it most. They are trying to limit the adverse effects of war on a daily basis. It is an honor to arrange travel for these warm-hearted persons.

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