International Humanitarian Law (IHL), or the rules of war, exists to protect people during times of conflict. Arising from the Geneva Conventions, these laws specifically protect those who are not, or who are no longer, participating in an armed conflict. IHL informs combatants what can and cannot be targeted during times of war.

Civilians, children, aid workers, healthcare facilities,  healthcare workers, and means of survival (like water and food), are all parts of what is protected under IHL. This means, that during times of conflict they can’t be made targets. 

In the past few years, Canadians have seen shocking images and heard accounts of IHL violations. The devestation of those violations shows us just how important these laws are. 

It is the duty of commanders to make sure soldiers know IHL. Commanders and governments have an obligation to take steps to hold individuals accountable who have violated IHL. This means they have the responsibility to investigate, and if necessary, prosecute those who have alleged to have committed these crimes. 

When civilians, healthcare or humanitarian assistance are intentionally targeted, it is a decision, not an accident. Deciding to break the rules of law is an attack on human dignity for all. 

Please note, some may find this video disturbing


 

Learn more about International Humanitarian Law, and the limits to war.