THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE LAWS OF ARMED
The present collection reproduces the texts of conventions, draft conventions and resolutions on the law of armed conflicts which have been adopted since the codification movement started in the nineteenth century. Its first edition appeared in 1973.1 It was followed by two revised and completed editions in 1981 and 19882 and by a French edition in 1996.3 With each edition, the number of texts has increased, due to the rapid development of this branch of international law. While the first edition contained 71. the second had 80, the third 87, the French edition has 107 and the present one 115. In order to give the reader access to all conventions and similar texts adopted since the nineteenth century, older conventions that in the course of time were replaced by newer ones (such as the Geneva Conventions adopted before 1949) have also been reproduced in all editions.
Until the middle of the nineteenth century, only customary law regulated questions of warfare. Common traditions and practices of European states, military manuals of national armies and bilateral agreements concluded in wartime between belligerents (cartels, capitulations) contributed to the formation of customary rules. It was only in the second half of the nineteenth century that states started concluding mulilateral conventions. Several factors contributed to this development.
First, the introduction of compulsory military service changed the nature of warfare. Large national armies took the place of small professional forces which had been subject to rigid discipline. Wars therefore were fought on a different scale from before. In this situation, a growing need was felt for a binding and widely accessible codification of rules governing the conduct of war. The Institute of International Law, in the preface to its Oxford Manual of 1880 (No. 3), which served this purpose, called for a clear set of rules to end the “painful uncertainty” and the “endless accusations” experienced in recent wars. It emphasized that such rules must be made known among all people.
Second, the number of victims greatly increased due to the enlargement of armies and the improvement of arms technology. This was the decisive factor for the foundation of the Red Cross and the adoption of the Geneva Convention
1 Schindler/Toman (eds.), The Laws of Armed Conflicts: A Collection of Conventions,
Resolutions and Other Documents, Leiden, A.W. Sijthoff; Geneva, Henry Dunant Institute,
1973, 795 pp.
2 Second revised and completed edition, Alphen aan den Rijn, Sijthoff & Noordhoff; Geneva,
Henry Dunant Institute, 1981, 993 pp.; third revised and completed edition, Dordrecht,
Martinus Nijhoff Publishers; Geneva, Henry Dunant Institute, 1988, 1033 pp.
3 Schindler/Toman (eds.), Droit des conflits armés. Recueil des conventions, résolutions et
autres documents, Geneva, Comité international de la Croix-Rouge/Institut Henry-Dunant,
1996, 1470 pp.