FUNDAMENTAL RULES OF INTERNATIONAL
HUMANITARIAN LAW APPLICABLE IN ARMED
Published by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies, 1978
INTRODUCTORY NOTE: By the adoption of the 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions (Nos. 56 and 57) the law of armed conflicts had become so voluminous and complex that it seemed desirable to establish a short text containing the most essential rales of this law. This text was drafted by experts of the ICRC, the League of Red Cross Societies and of national Red Cross Societies. It has no official character and no force of law.
TEXT PUBLISHED IN: International Review of the Red Cross, Vol. 18, No. 206, September–October 1978, pp. 247-249 (Engl.); Revue Internationale de la CroixRouge, Vol. 60, No. 713, septembre-octobre 1978, pp. 247-249 (French); Revista Internacional de la Cruz Roja, Vol. Ill, No. 29, septiembre-octubre de 1978, pp. 247-249 (Span.); Droit des conflits armés, pp. 895-896 (French); Roberts and Guelff, pp. 513-514 (Engl.).
International humanitarian law is made up of all the international legal provisions, whether of written or customary law, ensuring respect for the individual in armed conflict. Taking its inspiration from the sentiment of humanity, it postulates the principle that belligerents must not inflict harm on their adversaries out of proportion with the object of warfare, which is to destroy or weaken the military strength of the enemy.
International humanitarian law comprises the “law of Geneva”, which aims to safeguard military personnel hors de combat and persons who do not take part in the hostilities, and the “law of The Hague” which détermines the rights and duties of belligerents in the conduct of operations and limits the choice of the means of harming an enemy.
The paper entitled “Fundamental Rules of International Humanitarian Law”, which we give here, contains the essential parts of this law. Its authors have endeavoured, as far as possible, to use simple and concise terms.
These rules are not vested with the authority of an international legal instrument and are not intended to take the place of the treaties in force. Their sole purpose is to facilitate the dissemination of knowledge of international humanitarian law.
The ICRC and the League communicate this document to National Societies so that it might be used to instruct all those who, at different levels, are responsible for applying humanitarian law, or those who may wish to exercise their rights under that law or to grant their fellowmen the advantage of such rights.