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International Humanitarian Law

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International Humanitarian Law, known also as the Law of War, is an important part of the Red Cross activity. In fact, the Red Cross as an institution was created with the aim to accomplish the International Humanitarian Law. IHL is a component of the International Public Law and includes a set of rules which during armed conflicts are intended to protect persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities and to restrict the means and methods of warfare.

The International Humanitarian Law applies to situations of war and armed conflict, both international and internal, and has two separate branches:

  • Geneva Law, or the humanitarian law itself, which is intended to protect military personnel who are not or are no longer participating in fighting and those who are not actively involved in hostilities, especially civilians.
  • Hague Law, or the law of war, which establishes the rights and obligations of belligerents in the conduct of military operations and imposes restrictions on the means of injury to the enemy.

It includes the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocols I and II of 1977, to which the Republic of Moldova adhered on 2 March 1993 and III Additional Protocol (2005).

Basic principles and rules of the Humanitarian Law

  • The principles of Humanitarian Law are based on the distinction between combatants and non-combatants and between civilian goods and military objectives;
  • Humanity and military necessity, the need to maintain the balance between the imperatives of humanity, on the one hand, and military and security needs on the other;
  • Prevention of unnecessary suffering. The right of parties involved in conflict to choose the methods or means of warfare is not unlimited, and belligerents must not cause suffering and destruction exceeding the proportion imposed by the goal of the war, which consists in weakening or destroying the enemy's military potential;
  • Proportionality aims to achieve a balance between two diverging interests, one imposed by the considerations of military necessity and another by the humanity requirements, according to which the rights and prohibitions are never absolute.

Essential Rules

The International Committee of the Red Cross formulated ​​seven rules that summarizes the essence of the International Humanitarian Law. They don't have the authority of an international legal instrument and are not intended to replace the treaties in force.

1. Persons who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities are entitled to respect for their lives and for their physical and mental integrity. They must be protected and treated humanely in all circumstances, with no adverse distinction.

2. It is forbidden to kill or wound an enemy who surrenders or is unable to fight.

3. The sick and wounded must be collected and cared for by the party in whose power they find themselves. Medical personnel, supplies, hospitals and ambulances must all be protected. The red cross on a white background is the symbol protecting these properties and they need to be respected.

4. The captured combatants and the civilians who are under the authority of the enemy power are entitled to respect for their lives, dignity, personal rights, and their political, religious or others beliefs. They need to be protected from violent or revenge actions. They have the right to exchange messages with their families and receive aid.

5. Everyone must enjoy basic judicial guarantees and no one can be held liable for any act not committed. No one shall be subjected to physical or mental torture, corporal punishment or other degrading treatment.

6. None of the conflict parties or members of their armed forces have unlimited right to choose the means and methods of war. It is forbidden to use weapons or warfare methods that cause unnecessary damages or excessive suffering.

7. The parties in the conflict must always distinguish between civilians and combatants, so as to spare civilians and civilian property. Neither the civilian population as a whole, nor civilians taken separately, can not be attacked. The attacks must be directed only against military objectives.

Implementation of IHL:

The Statutes of the International Movement of Red Cross and Red Crescent recognizes the role that this, together with its Member Governments, it has to ensure respect for the International Humanitarian Law and protection of red cross and red crescent emblems. This is confirmed also by the Law of the Republic of Moldova Nr.673-XIV of 12.11.1999 "On the use and protection of the red cross emblem" and Law of the Republic of Moldova "On the Red Cross Society of Moldova" No. 139-XV of 10.05.2001.

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