International humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict, is a set of wartime rules that protect those who have not or are no longer participating in hostilities. International humanitarian law also limits the means and methods of warfare. Its primary purpose is to restrict and prevent human suffering during armed conflict. International humanitarian law regulates the treatment of wounded and prohibits attacks on civilians and using certain weapons. It also ensures the protection of non-combatants. Red Cross/Red Crescent and medical staff; and prisoners of war. International humanitarian law applies only in times of armed conflict. Internal tensions and turmoil, such as isolated acts of violence, are not recorded. Laws apply only once a conflict has begun and thereafter apply equally to all sides, regardless of who started the fight.

International humanitarian law distinguishes between international armed conflicts and non-international armed conflicts.

  •  International Armed Conflict:

At least two countries are usually involved in an international armed conflict. These are subject to various regulations, including her four Conventions in Geneva and Additional Protocol I.

  • Non-international armed conflict:

Non-international armed conflicts usually occur within the territory of a country, between national armed forces and organized armed groups, or between organized armed groups fighting each other. The more restrictive regime governs these non-international armed conflicts set out in Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol II (where applicable).

Canada's obligations under IHL

Governments, including Canada, must ensure respect for international humanitarian law. States must teach it to their armed forces and the general public. A Citizenship lawyer knows that states must enact laws to punish serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols. These severe violations can amount to war crimes. Governments must also pass laws protecting the Red Cross, Red Crescent, and Red Crystal emblems. A Citizenship Lawyer in Toronto will guide you through the process.

The Canadian Red Cross helps disseminate the principles of international humanitarian law to the armed forces, lawmakers, politicians, youth and the general public. The more people know about international humanitarian law and understand its impact on human life and dignity, the more likely combatants will respect it.

Who is protected?

International humanitarian law protects a range of people and objects during the war. IHL protects people not taking part in the fighting, including civilians, medical and religious military personnel, and Red Cross/Red Crescent workers. IHL also protects the sick, wounded, shipwrecked, prisoners of war and people who are deprived of their liberty. In addition, IHL ensures special protections for vulnerable people, including foreign nationals in the power of a party to the conflict, civilian internees, and women and children.

Civilian objects are protected under the general provisions of IHL. Civilian objects include things like shopping malls, schools, and homes. Some civilian objects are further protected through specific requirements of IHL. Objects with strengthened protection have items such as:

  • Medical units and transport.
  • Cultural property and places of worship.
  • The natural environment.
  • Things are indispensable to the survival of the civilian population.

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