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Advanced Introduction to International Conflict and Security Law

Nigel D. White

Advanced Introduction to International Conflict and Security Law provides a concise and insightful guide to the key principles of international law governing peacetime security, the use of force, conflict and post-conflict situations. Nigel D. White explores the complex legal regimes that have been created to control the level of armaments, to limit the occasions when governments can use military force to mitigate the conduct of warfare and to build peace.
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6 The law of armed conflict

Nigel D. White


According to an eminent jurist, Hilaire McCoubrey, the law of armed conflict, also known as the jus in bello or international humanitarian law, ‘seeks to moderate the conduct of armed conflict and mitigate the suffering which it causes’.1 It is often divided loosely into two limbs: ‘Hague’ law following the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 concerned with regulating the methods and means of warfare (the conduct of hostilities, tactics and weapons usage); and ‘Geneva’ law following the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the two 1977 Additional Protocols to those Conventions, concerned with the protection of victims of armed conflicts (those who have become hors de combat – former combatants who are captured, injured, shipwrecked and noncombatant civilians).2

Although forms of the jus in bello can be traced back to antiquity, its modern form originated in the mid-nineteenth century by which time any trace of chivalry or moral fighting code had been lost, reaching its nadir in the Crimean War 1854–1855. Three years later, a Swiss businessman, Henry Dunant, after witnessing the carnage in the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino 1859, fought during the Franco–Austrian War, campaigned for the establishment of an International Red Cross Movement and the formulation of the first humanitarian Geneva Convention of 1864, which, unsurprisingly, was directed at improving the protection of wounded soldiers.

While the idea of having laws applicable to war, when normal conditions of law and order have broken down, may seem to be contradictory, Dunant...

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