International Humanitarian Law
The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is an essential part of the International Law. It includes a set of rules aimed at protecting human dignity in times of armed conflicts, limiting the human suffering and protecting properties (health, cultural,religious..) from damage and destruction resulting from war.
Components of IHL:
IHL, also known as the law of armed conflict or law of war, includes Hague Conventions and Geneva Conventions:
Hague Conventions (1899-1907):
This law identifies methods and means of warfare. It spells the rights and obligations of combatants during military acts and limits means of harm and the use of arms.
Geneva Conventions (1949):
It is one of the most important bases of the Humanitarian Law. It aims at protecting persons hors de combat and those who do not take a direct part in hostilities.
It includes the following conventions:
Concerned with the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed conflicts in the battllefield. It includes rules stressing the neutrality of health services, medical transport facilities and medical services facilities as well as the respect for civilian volunteers participating in rescue activities and offering medical help without discrimination.
Concerned with the amelioration of the condition of wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea.
Concerned with the treatment of prisoners of war (POW). It stipulates that POW receive the services of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It involves everything related to the life and protection of the prisoner of war.
Concerned with protecting civilians in time of war. It involves everything related to civilians by protecting their lives, dignity, beliefs and physical and moral integrity.
Additional Protocols to Geneva Conventions (1977):
Protocol I: Concerned with international armed conflicts.
Protocol II: Concerned with non-international armed conflicts.
The two protocols are additional to Geneva Conventions since they include under protection all other individuals not mentioned in Geneva Conventions. Geneva Conventions and Hague Conventions have never been independant of one another; as a matter of fact they are interrelated and since the introduction of the two additional protocols in 1977, the distinction between the two Conventions carries only a historic and educational value.
Basic rules of IHL
IHL is based on a group of rules inspired by the humanitarian spirit in order to protect human dignity.
These rules are:
• Respect to the lives and the moral and physical dignity of the persons unable to fight and those who do not take a direct part in hostilities. These persons should, under all circumstances, be treated humanely without any adverse distinction
• Prohibit the killing or injuring those who surrender or unable to fight
• Provide medical care for the wounded and sick during hostilities, and restrain from harming rescuers and medical transport and aid facilities
• Respect protective emblems (Red Cross and Red Crescent emblems)
• Ensure that everybody enjoys judicial rights so that no one would be held responsible for an act he/she did not commit and no one should be subjected to physical, or mental torture, corporal punishment or cruel or degrading treatment
• Prohibit military acts causing genocides and the use of weapons that cause mass destruction or excessive suffering
• Distinguish between civilians and combatants to spare civilians’ lives and property and keep them safe from military attacks.
• Ban indiscriminate attacks against civilians.
Joining the Conventions
To join in to Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols, the parties (states) involved must submit their signatures and ratification to the Swiss Government. Lebanon signed the Conventions on April 10, 1951 and the Additional Protocols on July 23,1997.
Disseminating Conventions and IHL’s Principles
The Parties (states) contracted by signing the Geneva Conventions have vowed to disseminate the text of Geneva conventions and the Additional Protocols as widely as possible in their countries, in peacetime and in wartime, possibly include them in military and civil programs in pursuit of a wider spread. In accordance with the statute of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the dissemination of the International Humanitarian Law is one of its concerns in general. Each National Society spreads IHL in its country to contribute more in the dissemination of the spirit of peace, human rights respect, and fight against all forms of discrimination and distinction.
In Lebanon, the Lebanese Red Cross disseminates IHL, the Geneva Conventions and the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent among civilians, the armed forces and Society volunteers.
Guarding IHL: International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) makes sure the provisions of the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols are applied and active in armed conflict situations.
Emblems of protection and indication
The Geneva Conventions stipulated three emblems of protection and indication: The Red Cross, the Red Crescent and the Red Sun and Lion. In 1980, Iran adopted the Red Crescent as the emblem of protection and indication for its National Society, instead of the Red Sun and Lion and so the emblems in use became limited to Red Cross and Red Crescent. Every state party to Geneva Conventions has to choose only one of the two emblems to be used by its National Society and military medical services.
Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement
There is a strong relationship between the International Humanitarian Law and the Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement proclaimed in the 20th International Conference held in Vienna in 1965. These principles express the goals of the Movement in the broader sense, and abbreviate its humanitarian activities everywhere and under all circumstances. In short these principles are:
• Humanity: Respect for human dignity and alleviation of human suffering
• Impartiality: Provide aid and assistance without any distinction or discrimination
• Neutrality: Non biased stand in conflicts no involvement in politics
• Independence: Total independence in order to apply the principles
• Voluntary service: Provide voluntary relief and seek no gain
• Unity: Have one National Society in every country
• Universality: Exchange expertise and help among the different societies of the Red Cross and Red Crescent around the world
Components of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement :
The International Committee of the Red Cross
Founded in 1863, and headquartered in Geneva. It is an independent organization which works with total neutrality and impartiality in cases of hostilities and armed conflicts, according to Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocols, and to its right to take initiative regarding the protection and assistance of the victims of international and non international conflicts, and internal troubles.
of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Founded in 1919, and headquartered in Geneva. It is composed of the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Its mission is to coordinate international aids during natural disasters, to support humanitarian programs organized by the National Societies, to develop their capacities and to promote the cooperation and exchange of expertise and resources among them.
The National Societies
They are the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, where only one National Society should exist in one independent country (Red Cross or Red Crescent). They act as auxiliaries to local public authorities in humanitarian activities. They also provide a range of humanitarian services including disaster relief and health and social programs. In wartime, they assist affected civilians. They are recognized as auxiliaries to the military medical services.
In Lebanon, the National Society is the Lebanese Red Cross. Founded in 1945, it was recognized as an auxiliary to the medical service of the Lebanese Army in 1946. It was recognized by the International Committee of the Red Cross-Geneva in 1947. It became a member of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 1947 and it is a founder member of the Secretariat General of the Arab Red Crescent and Red Cross Societies.