International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is seen as the law in which provides basic human rights in time of armed conflict. The use of IHL in a modern scenario is needed now more then ever with the increase of entities that wish to disrupt the peace by ignoring basic human rights. Organisations and treaties have been created to help govern the IHL; which will need to be analysed to provide insight into IHLs. This essay aims to critically analyse IHL and outline how it can be improved. To gain an understanding IHL will first be defined.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) defines IHL as “a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict.” It can be seen as protection for those who no longer wish to continue hostilities during armed conflict and provides restrictions on warfare that could be used (ICRC, 2004: 1). International law governs the relationship between States by using conventions or treaties that are usually considered to be legally binding; this also includes IHL. However, the IHL does not provide States the authority to use actually force (ICRC, 2004: 1). To analyse IHL further, a historical point will need to be examined.
Throughout history there has been an attempt to incorporate some level of humanitarian protection; with the origins dating back to the Hammurabic Code in the 18th century B.C.; where it was seen to include basic human rights even for slaves of war (ICRC, 2006: 6). In more recent times it started to be more widely accepted and is touched upon in the United States Bill of Rights (1791) and also in the United State’s Lieber Code in 1863. Over the centuries these rules were also known as “customary international law”, which although were a set of unwritten laws it helped give a basic humanitarian protection in times of conflict and war. It was not until 1859 when Henry Dunant observed the repercussions of war between the Austrian and French Armies; that the first written observation recommending an entity to help the wounded on a battlefield. After seeing the suffering of thousands who were abandoned in the warzone, Dunant recruited nearby residents to help treat the wounded and provide relief. After experiencing such a tragic event Dunant went on to write A Memory of Solferino, which proposed the organising of a volunteer relief corps that would provide treatment for the injured (ICRC, 2006: 6). It was written that:
“Would it not be possible, in time of peace and quiet, to form relief societies for the purpose of having care given to the wounded in wartime by zealous, devoted, and thoroughly qualified volunteers?”
However, it wasn’t until 1863 until his vision was realised in Geneva, Switzerland when a “Committee of Five” was formed (ICRC, 2006: 7). This group went on to call themselves the International Committee of the Red Cross; which a few months later in 1864 first adopted the Geneva Convention Treaty. The first Geneva Convention had 10 articles...