A nasty business war is. When people harm one another to achieve their goals or
purposes, it refers to an armed conflict. Unfortunately, innocent civilians are
unnecessarily drawn into this conflict and end up as victims of this despicable
situation. As the battle goes on, it gradually assumes its most heinous forms,
so it no longer simply affects civilians but also soldiers, prisoners of war,
and even inanimate objects like monuments. So, to deal with this, some
guidelines were established.
The parent organization that formulated the "The Conduct of Hostilities"
guideline to partially control the effects of conflict is the International
Humanitarian Law (IHL). To safeguard people during conflicts, the IHL strives to
strike a balance and reach a compromise between military necessity and
humanitarian considerations. This results in the suffering of soldiers being
reduced as well.
Unless they witness the hostile nature of wars, which leave the area completely
desolate with several innocent lives lost and historical sites destroyed, people
typically dispute its necessity. There have been instances where unnecessary
casualties resulted from civil wars, World War 1 and World War 2, for example.
People are still suffering as a result of the horrific Hiroshima and Nagasaki
bombings that marked the end of World War 2. In each of these situations,
persons who were not or no longer active in the battle got embroiled against
'Laws felt silent while the cannons screamed.'
There are a significant number of international laws that address this topic.
The terms used to describe warlike events, proportionality, precautions, and
prohibition, among others, are crucial and have partially brought about the
The conduct of hostilities is governed and controlled by international
humanitarian law. They have established guidelines that mitigate the effects of
terrible battles. It states that while there is no limit to the tools and
methods of war, it is categorically forbidden to use any that result in needless
suffering and devastation. These laws offer strategies for how one side can
force the other to submit or weaken its army with the least amount of damage.
After watching human suffering and antagonism for so long, these laws are worth
The principles of humanity, neutrality, and impartiality form the foundation of
international humanitarian law. These elements make up the law's core and
The activity of Swiss industrialist Henry Dunant in the 19th century is where
this noble purpose first emerged. He witnessed the aftermath of the French and
Austrian soldiers' battle in Solferino, Italy, in 1859. Numerous soldiers
were hurt and died during the conflict. Even after Dunant's efforts and trying
to secure supplies for the soldiers, thousands died.
Because of his efforts to address this problem, he is properly credited with
creating international humanitarian law. To safeguard the injured, he suggested
that individuals be trained to create volunteer relief organizations.
Additionally, this was discussed in his book, "A Memory of Solferino." A
five-member group was established in response, and in 1863 it became the nucleus
of the worldwide committee of the Red Cross. The necessity of it was highlighted
so strongly that ambassadors from 16 different countries, military personnel,
and men gathered in New York to discuss potential future developments.
And at the meeting, a convention was negotiated, and extensive discussion about
humanitarian assistance, medical care, and protection for the defenseless to
lessen injury and other effects.
International Humanitarian law:
This rule, which sometimes goes by the name "law of armed conflict," is an
expansion of the primary international law that regulates how much force can be
used in a fight.
In different ways, the IHL aims to limit and control hostilities and armed
- By imposing limitations on participants in armed engagements concerning
all permissible means, methods, and tactics.
- Enforcing and carrying out rules that protect persons who abstain from
or stop taking part in hostilities.
IHL thus seeks to lessen the harmful effects of the ongoing conflict, especially
for those who are innocent and most vulnerable, such as civilians, prisoners of
war, injured, ill, or shipwrecked military personnel.
To accomplish the desired outcomes, the IHL regulations are established based on
a few core ideas and principles. They are:
- Making a distinction between combatants and civilians
Combatants are members of the armed forces who actively engage in hostilities.
The idea of distinction requires the opposing party to distinguish between those
who are armed and those who are not at every stage of the conflict. As a result,
any battle, strike, or attack should only target military targets.
For instance, it was a recurring pattern in the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan,
Syria, Pakistan, etc. that innocent civilians living in conflict areas were
killed in bombings during battles, bringing the overall death toll to roughly
335,000. The divergence appears to be crucial.
- Restrictions against attacking those who aren't currently taking part
in the conflict.
People who have stopped actively fighting in the wars should be protected from
direct harm. These individuals are known as "out of combat," and this term is
used when people stop participating in the war or become too injured to fight.
Therefore, killing them would be a legal violation.
- Prohibition against causing needless harm.
Parties to a battle are not allowed to use methods or prohibited media that
cause unneeded pain or suffering, i.e., injuries that are more severe than those
that are strictly required to achieve military goals and increase the suffering
of injured soldiers and civilians to the point where their deaths are
For instance, the USA bombed Japan using atomic weapons to finish World War II.
Given that it murdered 80,000 and 40,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki,
respectively, this can be viewed as unnecessary. The devastation is still being
- The Necessity Rule
According to the principle of necessity, individuals involved in a battle should
only do actions that will weaken their enemy and force them to submit. It is not
necessary to completely destroy the opponent, its military troops, or its
In the event that an attack on an authorized military is anticipated to cause
severe civilian damage during hostilities, parties are not permitted to
undertake the attack.
For instance, Rajiv Gandhi, an ally of the Sri Lankans, sent food, aid, and
peacekeeping forces to them during the Sinhalese and Tamil war, which infuriated
the Sri Lankan Tamils. The Liberation Tigers of Tiger Ealem killed Rajiv Gandhi
with a suicide bombing that also injured about 60 bystanders as revenge for
hurting their feelings and supporting the enemy.
The Conduct of Hostilities:
The IHL regulates how hostilities are carried out during wars and armed conflict
through techniques and regulations pertaining to targets, restrictions on
weaponry, and mentioning legal means of fighting. But the principle that
underpins everything is that there should be no harm done to civilians.
Therefore, there are limitations on the use of weapons and techniques that
cannot distinguish between military and civilian targets. These include
poison, incendiary weapons like flame throwers, blind lasers, non-detectable
weapons, bombs that detonate or activate when disturbed, and projectiles like
flammable materials. They also include chemical, biological, and nuclear
These rules apply to monumental items like historic sites, houses of worship,
and other items of great cultural significance as well as to ordinary people and
human resources. Articles 51 to 54 of the International Humanitarian Law refer
to it. According to the statement, "It forbids indiscriminate attacks on
civilian populations and the destruction of food, water, and other essential
Whether or not these laws are upheld:
The conflict in Afghanistan
Even though the war in Afghanistan has been raging for years�whether against US,
Russian, or NATO forces�it has now come to an end. The war was started in
opposition to the prevailing Taliban rule and in particular the Al Qaeda
organization, for whom Afghanistan served as a haven and base camp. They were
responsible for the 9/11 incident, which sparked unrest in several nations.
The following are the contraventions of a huge ocean of rules governing the
conduct of hostilities that this protracted war brought to light:
- The uniform and emblems
All military and armed forces, including the Taliban, must wear uniforms or
another set of distinguishing badges or symbols. However, they chose not to,
forfeiting their right to continue claiming to be prisoners of war under
international law. A fundamental norm of identification during wars that is the
distinction from the civilians was, thus, blatantly not followed, by not
adhering themselves to a right uniform.
- The militant organization Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda, just like the Taliban, could not claim the status of prisoners of war
because of its demeanor. They were an erratic force without a uniform or crest.
However, they started to seriously violate international law when they pretended
to be civilians and hijacked many airplanes on 9/11, which resulted in the
deaths of nearly 3000 civilians. They consistently displayed contempt for the
In a flagrant violation of the law, prisoners were moved from Afghanistan to
Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Regardless of the reason, it is against the law to
deport or transfer from an occupied nation to the territory of the occupying
power or any other country, whether it is occupied or not. 
Both sides of the conflict openly employed illegal weaponry. The Taliban
utilized it to instill fear throughout the nation to occupy it. In addition to
torturing citizens who disobeyed their orders, they also damaged important
historical sites like the Bamiyan Buddha.
The same was seen on the part of the USA. Target killing and unmanned aerial
vehicles were their strategies. The Red Cross Rule, which declares that "The use
of lethal force attributable to a subject of international law with the intent,
premeditation, and deliberate killing of individually selected persons who are
not in the physical custody of those targeting them," was forbidden as a
The war in Afghanistan, which lasted the longest in American history and
resulted in tens of thousands of deaths, was conducted in direct violation of
international law, which has as its core principle the protection of innocent
people. There are likely more casualties than have been reported, including
47,245 Afghan civilians, 1,144 NATO members, 444 relief workers, 72 journalists,
and 3846 US contractors.
- Women and Children
In recent years, Afghanistan has experienced the cruelest forms of warfare,
particularly when it comes to violence against women and children, who are the
most defenseless members of the civilian population. Both US and local troops
frequently sexually assaulted women and girls. In the past, a news story has
claimed that Afghanistan is experiencing an "epidemic" of military sexual
assault and rape.
It is against the law for children under the age of 15 to be enlisted in the
military or take part in hostilities, according to a special provision of
international law for minors. Nevertheless, it was seen that kids started
undergoing military training at a very young age, learning how to use weapons
and take part in combat.
Also, thousands of boys and girls were killed, injured, and exposed to sexual
harassment without access to any basic needs in the past few years.
Combatants in a state of war are never expected to adhere to the laws
established as they cannot, yet it is commendable to observe situations where
the laws were respected to some extent, such as:
The recent Russia-Ukraine War
- In the Gulf Wars, despite all the conflict, everyone witnessed the
capture of Saddam Hussein, and the procedures of the trial conducted were
under the framed law.
- According to a rule, anyone who does not wear a uniform or bear an
emblem is permitted to carry firearms openly, something the Taliban did on
- During the most recent conflict in Israel, the Israeli army was spotted
telling the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip to leave the building they
planned to bomb empty before attacking it to prevent the deaths of
- The Indo-China conflict, which has been raging for many years at a time,
has only been confined to the borders and only directly involved parties.
- As was previously mentioned, there are regulations for the protection of
monuments. As a result, during World War II, a famous incident occurred in
which an army known as "The Monument Men" was formed to protect and save the
majority of the artistic treasures, monuments, and other cultural landmarks
from Hitler, who was planning to destroy them.
For a variety of geopolitical reasons, Russia has been at war with Ukraine and
maintaining its hold on it. Because Ukraine was so determined to follow the
West, Russia tried to apply pressure on it. As a result, Ukraine was the target
of attacks and a war, which had disastrous consequences. This conflict had
various aspects of hostilities that were governed by international humanitarian
law, much like any other conflict:
It was expressly forbidden to assault civilian targets. This comprised buildings
such as residences, business offices, hospitals, and cultural monuments.
However, there is one exception: attacks on these locations are not allowed
unless they are being used for military purposes, in which case they become
- As times have changed, these regulations now cover cyberattacks as well. These
assaults must only be made with a military purpose in mind and must be arbitrary
or excessive. Any cyberattack that, for instance, disrupts the entire electrical
grid and causes long-term harm to citizens would be illegal.
- Today, the internet and cell phones are essential resources. When it is
down during combat, both the military and civilians are unable to
communicate on topics pertaining to their safety. Additionally, it hinders
the work of reporters, reporters, and human rights watchdogs who are on the
ground gathering information for the public.
- Journalists have a key role in these situations. They receive the same
treatment as civilians. They are subject to constitutionally protected
limitations on their right to free expression, but they should not be
detained or otherwise punished for just performing their job as journalists.
Flaws and gaps in international laws related to the conduct of hostilities:
International law is no different from other laws in that it has weaknesses.
Given that it contains certain contentious elements, namely :
- Due to the complexity of the provision, questions are regularly raised
about how precisely casualties are estimated or tallied.
- Wealthy nations adhere to the laws, which include the use and ban of
weapons, to some extent, and can introduce alternatives because they have
the resources to do so. This gives them an advantage over lesser nations,
who rarely adhere to the rules and utilize illegal methods. Syria, for
instance, has been charged with employing sarin and chlorine as toxic gases.
- According to IHL, prisoners of war and civilians caught up in combat
must be treated humanely and without making any "adverse distinctions" based
on their gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, political views, or other
Among civilians, women are particularly weak and abused. Without a doubt,
IHL should be respected for upholding the idea of equality by not making a
distinction between civilians based on gender, which runs counter to the
number of women who are targeted for rape and other forms of sexual abuse
during the war. Therefore, they should receive special consideration.
- Because the definitions for crucial concepts like prisoners of war are
inaccurate and ambiguous, there is occasionally controversy on these
Because IHL cannot ensure humanity in armed conflicts, there have been several
upsurges and blatant legal violations in recent years. IHL cannot protect
everyone, everywhere at all stages of war, and nations are also unable or
reluctant to apply the law because they must first safeguard their sovereignty.
Instead, a number of distinctions between armed conflicts and other forms of
violence that are not covered by IHL are expected to be governed by IHL norms,
such as the presence of civilians versus combatants, military aims against
civilian targets, and own versus occupied territory.
The complicated circumstances of today's armed conflicts, which rarely involved
the regular armies of well-organized and well-established States, make it often
challenging to apply such basic distinctions.
Nevertheless, this legislation made a significant contribution. These are
crucial in to minimize the victims, effects, and aftermath of violent warfare.
- Supra note 1.
- International court of Justice, 'Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons' (1996) Pg. 257.
- American Red Cross, 'Summary of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and Their Additional Protocols' (International Humanitarian Law, April 2011)
- Yoram Dinstein, 'the conduct of hostilities under the law of international armed conflict' (Cambridge University Press 2004) pg. 49.
- Geneva Convention (Geneva, 27th July 1929) entered into force 21st October 1950, art 49.
- International committee of the Red Cross (Geneva, 17th February 1863) targeted killing in international law, entered into force 22nd August 1864.
- United Nations, 'Report details grave violations against children in Afghanistan' (UN News, 16th August 2021)
- Ishita Chakrabarty and Hardik Choudhary, 'Participation in the Conduct of Hostilities and State Restraint on Killing' (2018) 9 QMLJ 49, pg. 56-58.
- Rachit Garg, 'protection of women and children during armed conflict under international humanitarian law' (blog ipleaders, 16th September 2021)