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The International Humanitarian Law: Basic Conventions And Laws

'War' sees no boundaries and jurisdictions. when a war or a conflict breaks out between two countries or within a given country a situation of anarchy seems to prevail as during such times there seems to be no strict compliance with the already established law and regulations. It is during such times that laws appears to have no great impact , as is also been said by a great thinker, Marcus Tullius Cicero, that 'in times of war, laws falls silent'.

Peace and War are like two differing sides of a coin which affects two varying yet important factors of human existence, such as enjoyment of human rights and enjoyment of friendly terms between the countries of the world respectively. The first area of interest deals with the broad subject of 'human rights' and the second one deals with the great body of international law which is known by the name of 'International Humanitarian Law' or IHL.

The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and its Conventions

When we talk of IHL, these set of rights and rules decide the course and the extent of impact of the forces used, during a conflict between countries, by the belligerents against various societal elements, for instance, civilian persons, social structures and monuments of national relevance. It is IHL which actually comes into operation, in times of conflict between states, with all its essential provisions contained in landmark international documents which are ultimately considered foundational for the cessation of hostile treatments given to each other by the warring states and for the maintenance of friendly relations between them.

The rules and laws relating to the implementation of the IHL is contained majorly in Four Geneva Conventions signed in 1949 in Geneva. The First Geneva Convention is relating to the Protection of the wounded and sick in the Field; the Second Conventions relates to the Protection of the Wounded, Sick as well as Ship Wrecked members in the Sea, the Third Convention relates to the Protection of Prisoners of War and the Fourth Convention pertains to the Protection of Civilian Populations in Times of War.

Background of IHL and the International Committee of the Red Cross

If we try to study the background of the emergence of the IHL as a set of rights in existence today, we will find that Sir Henry Dunant, a swiss businessman. He was not just a businessman but a humanitarian as well. Sir Dunant is revered today as the founder of the laws of the IHL. He witnessed the War of Solferino which was being fought between the French and Austrian soldiers back in 1859.

The battle ground was filled with bloodshed and bodies of ailing and helpless army members who were in desperate need of aid and assistance. Seeing such a scenario, Sir Dunant decided to contribute towards the alleviation and protection of those wounded members by forming the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863. The ICRC is a humanitarian international organization which functions, during war times between countries, with the object of providing adequate aid and medical assistance to all those affected by the conflict, including civilians.

Till date, the ICRC has served and is still serving in many nations where similar assistance is needed. It has served in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC); Bosnia; Mali; Sudan; Zambia; Iran; Afghanistan; Japan and many others.


Therefore, the subject of the IHL is a broad one and an important one as well. The IHL has proved to be an essential legal tool of peace and humanity in states where they were needed to most owing to the devastating conditions caused by war. The countries of the world are bound by the visionary principles of equality, justice, peace and harmony which form the core essence of IHL today.

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