What places and objects does IHL protect and how?
IHL, or International Humanitarian Law, also known as the laws of war or the laws of armed conflict, is a set of rules and principles that aim to protect people who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities during armed conflicts, as well as certain places and objects. These rules are primarily governed by the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols. Here are some of the key elements protected by IHL:
- Civilians: IHL protects civilians, including individuals who are not directly involved in the conflict. It prohibits targeting civilians and requires parties to the conflict to distinguish between civilian and military targets. It also safeguards the rights and well-being of civilians, including their protection from violence, torture, and other forms of mistreatment.
- Wounded, sick, and shipwrecked: IHL provides protection to those who are wounded, sick, or shipwrecked during armed conflicts. It requires parties to the conflict to provide medical care, evacuation, and necessary treatment to these individuals, regardless of their nationality.
- Prisoners of war: IHL establishes protections for individuals who have been captured or detained during armed conflicts and are considered prisoners of war. It outlines the rights and treatment they should receive, including humane treatment, access to medical care, and protection against torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
- Medical personnel and facilities: IHL safeguards medical personnel, such as doctors and nurses, as well as medical facilities, including hospitals and ambulances. It prohibits attacking or harming these individuals and objects, and it requires parties to the conflict to respect and protect their work.
- Cultural property: IHL protects cultural property, such as monuments, archaeological sites, museums, and libraries, from destruction, theft, and pillage during armed conflicts. Parties to the conflict are obligated to safeguard and respect these objects, which hold cultural, historical, and artistic significance.
- Environmental protection: While IHL primarily focuses on protecting individuals, it also recognizes the importance of safeguarding the environment during armed conflicts. It prohibits the use of methods or means of warfare that would cause excessive harm or widespread, long-term environmental damage.
These are some of the main elements protected by IHL. The overarching objective is to minimize human suffering and ensure that individuals, particularly those not actively participating in the conflict, are treated with humanity and respect, regardless of the circumstances.