Treaties of international humanitarian law and customary international law

 Treaties of international humanitarian law and customary international law

international humanitarian law
international humanitarian law


Throughout history, wars have been waged in accordance with restrictions that remained for the most part customs that were not recorded until 1864, the date of the adoption of the first Geneva Convention. It was found to be the first of many treaties to restrict the conduct of hostilities.


This section of the website contains links to key texts on international humanitarian law, comments on their application spoofs and academic articles dealing with the development of international humanitarian law. It also provides information on developments in the treaty ratification process.


The Geneva Conventions are at the heart of international humanitarian law. The text of the first Convention of 1864 was revised and republished in 1906 and then in 1929 for the second time. The current version of the conventions was adopted on 12 August 1949 on the eve of the Second World War, becoming known as the "Four Geneva Conventions" and becoming universally ratified.


International humanitarian law covers two main areas: the protection of persons who do not participate or cease to participate in combat, and the restrictions governing the use and methods of warfare, such as weapons and tactical strategies.


The first Geneva Convention of 1949 concerns the provision of protection and care for the wounded and sick of the armed forces on the battlefield.


The Second Geneva Convention provides protection and care for the wounded, sick and shipwrecked armed forces at sea.


The  Third  Geneva  Convention  relates to  the treatment of prisoners of war


The Fourth Geneva Convention addresses the protection of civilians in times of war.


Three additional protocols have been attached to the Geneva Conventions since 1949, with protocol I of 1977 providing for the protection of victims of international armed conflicts. The second protocol, established in the same year, governs the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts.


The third protocol, which was attached to the conventions in 2005, adds a new badge of protection: the red crystal, along with the two established badges, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent.


International humanitarian law also contains a series of treaties governing the use of certain weapons or tactical strategies or relating to the protection granted to persons or objects. These include the 1954 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property during Armed Conflicts, the 1972 Convention on Biological Weapons, the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons, the 1993 Convention on Chemical Weapons and the 1997 Ottawa Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines.


In addition to treaty law, there is an important edifice of customary international humanitarian law whose rules have been compiled and recorded by the ICRC in a major study issued by the Cambridge University Publishing House. This study provides a comprehensive analysis of customary rules applied in armed conflicts based on state practice.