Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Sunday, November 19th, 2017

The Dos and Don’ts of IHL

The International Humanitarian Law (IHL) which arranges the relations between states and international organizations and the issues regarding international law is one of the controversial issues. That is to say, IHL upholds the rights of the victims of armed conflicts like the soldiers who no more participate in war and civilians who are on the fence.
Warring parties are supposed to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants whose rights to life, liberty and property will have to be immune to attack. Only military bases should be targeted and there are also restrictions in using weapons and military tactic which may result in injuries and “unnecessary sufferings”. According to IHL, torturing, wounding or killing the surrendered enemies or those not involved in conflicts are not allowed and their life, physical, and mental health should be respected. Likewise, war prisoners and locals residing the sites captured by enemies must be treated with humanity and their rights and dignity are not to be violated.
The IHL will be applied only during armed conflicts which are of two kinds: International Armed Conflict and non-International Armed Conflict. The first occurs when one or more states use arms against another state or international organization. National freedom fighting in which people fight against colonial powers and their allies or racists for defending their rights or autonomy, will be called International Armed Conflict under certain circumstances. The latter includes the conflicts between a state’s soldiers and non-state organized armed groups or simply between non-state groups.
The IHL includes many principles: the principles of human treatment without discrimination, restriction in using arms, distinction, proportion, lack of reciprocation, and care.
Since the main objective of the IHL is restricting or reducing the pain and sufferings as a result of war and supporting victims, the aforementioned principles which were confirmed by Geneva Convention in 1864 must be observed.
It should be noted that when prisoners are arrested by the hostile army, whether or not they are surrendered, the law of prisoners of war will be applied in this case. In such an issue, they are not supposed to be prosecuted legally or persecuted. In fact, fighters are allowed to be directly involved in conflicts and be immune to prosecution or persecution. They will be prosecuted in case of committing war crimes. In other words, arresting war prisoners are not kind of punishment but a way of preventing them from war. Following the end of conflict, war prisoners should be released. It is emphasized that prisoners of war are supposed to be treated with humanity and any kinds of violence, threat or insult against them are banned.
All warring parties, involved in armed conflicts, states and international community are responsible to respect IHL. Hence, warring sides can only target combatants and military bases but locals, particularly women and children, must not be targeted. Military targets include infrastructures, buildings and sites where the enemies reside. However, when local instruments are used as military means such as using local rail road for carrying weapons will be also counted as military targets.
Unluckily, the rule of law is hardly considered in conflicts these days and local places and individuals are targeted intentionally or unintentionally. Women and children are highly vulnerable in international and non-international armed conflicts.
Terrorism is a matter of great concern regarding violation of IHL. Terrorist networks neither know about the rule of war nor respect the international laws. They target anywhere with any possible weapons. Targeting locals, including women and children, religious figures, aid groups, instructors, lecturers, holy places, hospitals, schools, universities, local infrastructures, populated sites, etc. are targeted frequently and continue unabated. Similarly, militant fighters in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, etc. treat war prisoners in the most horrible and violent manners. They flagrantly violate their human rights and dignity and record and spread videos to fill the air with horror and terror which are a strong blow to the minds of people. The said practices are not only against IHL but also against religious and moral values. Thus, such inhuman issues must be stopped and the perpetrators will have to be prosecuted legally.
It is aptly said that conflict is not a connection between one human and another, but connection between states but individuals accidentally fall enemy against one another not on the basis of being human or resident but on the basis of being soldier. The main objective of war is the destruction of enemy’s state. Therefore, eliminating their defenders are allowed until they carry arms. But when they surrender and put their arms down, they are no more considered enemies and will be changed into locals and targeting them is not allowed anymore.