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International Humanitarian Law: Home


Welcome to this research guide on international humanitarian law. There are many different sources available to you to conduct your research in the Taggart Law Library. 

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Brief Introduction

International Humanitarian Law, also known as jus in bello, or Law of Armed Conflict, is generally defined as “a set of rules that restrict the means and methods of warfare while protecting civilians, prisoners of war and wounded soldiers.” See International Committee of the Red Cross, What is International Humanitarian Law. Note the distinction here between international humanitarian law (jus in bello) and the law of war (jus ad bellum). Broadly, International humanitarian law overs conduct during wartime. The law of war covers the transition from peace to the use of armed force.

International humanitarian law existed historically as a set of practices developed over hundreds of years, but in the mid-19th century states began to codify the law into treaties. The most significant early efforts were the First Hague Conference in 1899 and the Second Hague Conference in 1907, which resulted in the Hague Conventions, which governed the conduct of warfare. These have been supplemented by additional agreements in the years since.

In 1949, during the aftermath of World War II, the Geneva Conventions established rules providing specific protections for those not taking part in the hostilities, such as civilians, aid workers, wounded soldiers, and prisoners of war.

International Humanitarian Law is a subset of Public International Law and consists largely of treaties, decisions from international tribunals, and additional resources produced by NGOs (non-governmental organizations) and INGOS (international non-governmental organizations). 

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