International Humanitarian Law
International Humanitarian Law - more commonly known as the laws of war - is a body of law that exists to protect people in times of armed conflict. It regulates the treatment of the wounded, prohibits attacks against civilians, the use of certain weapons, and ensures the protection of non-combatants, Red Cross and medical personnel, and prisoners of war. International Humanitarian Law protects all of us, regardless of our race, sex, religion, nationality, political opinion, culture or social status.
War has changed since the signing of the First Geneva Convention in 1864. Most conflicts today are within a country or region, not between two countries. An added characteristic of the tragedy of modern conflicts is that many of today's casualties are civilians. Television images and newspaper stories make us painfully aware of the carnage and cruelty of conflict. Disrespect of International Humanitarian Law worsens the human suffering.
The goal of the Red Cross is to teach the armed forces, lawmakers, politicians and the general public that "Even Wars Have Limits". The more we know about International Humanitarian Law, and the more we understand its impact on human life and dignity, the more likely we are to respect it.
"For the Red Cross there is no just war and no unjust war - there are only victims in need of help." (Jean Pictet, 1979).
Our work at the Red Cross protects and promotes the rights of all people affected by armed conflict. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), working under the Red Cross Fundamental Principle of neutrality, enters conflict areas and negotiates on behalf of the wounded, prisoners of war, and civilians. The distinctive Red Cross emblem, first used in 1864, symbolizes our neutrality and humanitarian mandate. The person or object bearing the Red Cross is entitled to protection from attack under International Humanitarian Law.
The only bodies legally entitled to use the Red Cross emblem are the medical services of the military of each country, the ICRC, the Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies all over the world organize workshops to teach lawmakers, police, security forces, the military, and the general public about International Humanitarian Law. We believe that:
"to humanize war is not to encourage it, but to spread a spirit of peace in the midst of war which can contribute towards its conclusion." (Yves Sandoz, International Committee of the Red Cross.)
You Can Help
Our fifth guiding principle is Voluntary Service. That's where you come in. The work of Red Cross depends on dedicated volunteers and financial support. If you would like to join us in our work, please contact your local Red Cross office. Another way you can support our programs is by making a cash donation. You can also download materials from our Even Wars Have Limits and Facing Fear website sections.
You Make the Difference – Support Our International Humanitarian Issues Programs
Through programs like the International Humanitarian Issues Program and the International Humanitarian Law Program the Canadian Red Cross trains and educates more than 250,000 Canadian youth each year. Please donate today.