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International Humanitarian Law: Introduction

Research and content developed by Oshole Imhoagene; Libguide developed by Becca Maree

Key Definitions & Concepts

International Humanitarian Law

Also known as the Law of War or the Law of Armed Conflict, International Humanitarian Law is generally defined as “a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare." See International Committee of the Red Cross, What is International Humanitarian Law (July 2004), available as a PDF below. 

Lieber Code of 1863

Enforced during the American Civil War, the Lieber Code of 1863 is recognized as the first modern understanding of International Humanitarian Law. See Diakonia, Sources of International Humanitarian Law (2010), available as a link below. 

Hague Conventions

The first Hague Conference in 1899 and the second Hague Conference in 1907 governed the legal framework and conduct of warfare. See Diakonia, Sources of International Humanitarian Law (2010), available as a link below. 

Geneva Conventions

The Four Geneva Conventions of 1949 established protections for those not taking part in hostilities, such as civilians, aid workers, wounded soldiers, and prisoners of war. See Diakonia, Sources of International Humanitarian Law (2010), available as a link below. 

See Diakonia, Basic Principles of IHL (2010), available as a link below. See also How Does Law Protect in War, Fundamental Principles of IHL (2019), available as a link below.

International Humanitarian Law Databases

Other International Humanitarian Law Resources

Courts with Jurisdiction to Try International Humanitarian Law Offenses