When does IHL apply?


IHL, or International Humanitarian Law, applies during armed conflicts. It is a set of rules and principles that seek to limit the effects of armed conflicts and protect those who are not or no longer taking part in the hostilities. The application of IHL is determined by the type and intensity of the conflict.

IHL applies in two main contexts:

  1. International Armed Conflicts: These are conflicts between two or more states. IHL, including the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols, applies to regulate the conduct of parties involved in such conflicts.
  2. Non-International Armed Conflicts: These are conflicts that take place within the borders of a single state, between the government and one or more non-state armed groups, or between such groups themselves. Commonly referred to as civil wars or internal conflicts, IHL applies to regulate the conduct of parties involved, primarily through customary international law.

It’s important to note that IHL does not apply during times of peace or internal disturbances that fall short of armed conflicts. In such situations, human rights law and domestic laws govern the actions of the state and its agents.

The determination of whether a situation qualifies as an armed conflict and the application of IHL is often complex and subject to interpretation. International bodies, courts, and tribunals play a significant role in interpreting and applying these rules on a case-by-case basis.

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