What are the ‘Rules of War’? The Geneva Convention Condensed

Otherwise known as international humanitarian law (IHL), the ‘rules of war’ detail what can and cannot be done in times of conflict. They are designed to limit the suffering of those not involved in conflict, and also those who cannot fight.

These are set out in the Geneva Convention, which is the most fundamental element of IHL. Unlike most treaties, it has been ratified by 196 states; a tremendous level of support.

The Convention is universal, meaning it must be respected by all people regardless of stature. Similarly, no one is exempt from the consequences of breaking the rules; individuals can be investigated and tried by international courts for war crimes. Examples in the past have been the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

Some of the regulations put forward by the Geneva Convention include:

  • protecting those not involved in conflict
  • protecting those who cannot fight
  • prohibiting the targeting of innocent civilians
  • prohibiting the targeting of hospitals, medical workers, and medical vehicles
  • protecting prisoners from maltreatment and torture
  • prohibiting the use of sexual violence in conflict

See the full Geneva Convention here.

What are Human Rights?

Phoebe Egoroff

Founder and of Jurist International, a website focusing on the latest developments in international human rights and criminal law.

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