Do you know the laws of war?

Topics: Worldwide, International Humanitarian Law
November 09, 2012

Do you know the laws of war?

International humanitarian law is a body of rules that protect civilians and soldiers who are currently on active duty, or have ceased to be involved in combat situations.

As part of the world's largest humanitarian network, the Canadian Red Cross provides critical resources in an effort to promote and uphold international humanitarian law around the globe.

Understanding the basic laws of war
The Geneva Conventions played an integral role in the development of international humanitarian law, also commonly known as the laws of war, by recognizing in law the respect afforded to the individual and his or her dignity even in times of armed conflict. Collectively, the laws of war establish guidelines for the conduct of hostilities. 

While the laws of war are an essential aspect of international operations, many Canadians may be uncertain about what they actually are.

The basic laws of war dictate that:

Attacks are limited to combatants and military targets. This prohibits attacks on civilians or civilians' objects (including homes, schools, historic memorials and places of worship), the use of civilians as shields, objects necessary for the survival of a civilian population.

Civilians, as well as those who are wounded and taken prisoner, must be treated humanely, protected and spared from death.

Any military and civilian medical personnel must be granted any and all available help in order to allow them to perform their duties, which may include assisting injured combatants, civilians and prisoners.

The impact in Canada
While it may seem esoteric, international humanitarian law is an important issue that affects Canadians. From helping defend the rights of others affected by armed conflict to upholding the laws of war abroad and domestically, Canadians play a substantial role in strengthening international humanitarian law.

Each year, Canadian soldiers are deployed to areas impacted by conflict, while others deployed as aid workers with nonprofit organizations, like the Canadian Red Cross. The Canadian Red Cross is also committed to helping increase education and knowledge of young Canadians on the laws of war through the Exploring Humanitarian Law program that helps teachers educate their students about armed conflict and international law.

In addition, many Canadians have links to family members living in other countries. As a result of the laws of war and with help from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, they're able to reconnect with loved ones affected by emergencies and disasters.

How you can help
For those living in vulnerable communities, the devastating impact of war and civil unrest can resonate for decades to come, yet the initiatives supported by the Canadian Red Cross help those in need gain access to vital services that can improve their quality of life.

With the help of Canadians just like you, the Canadian Red Cross can continue to offer a range of dynamic programs that empower individuals and communities to overcome the challenges brought on by natural disasters, armed conflict and other emergencies.

To show your support, please donate online or at your local Red Cross today!