What Are the International Rules of War?


Quick Answer

The phrasing "international rules of war" may refer to the content of any treaties or public international laws governing the justifications for and conduct of war, particularly those forcing humanitarian limitations upon belligerent states. Most such statutes derive from a concept called positive international humanitarian law, which uses such treaties to bind consenting nations through wider, ideally universal, participation.

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Full Answer

Many of the first laws restricting wartime activities appear in religious sources, particularly in Biblical documents such as Deuteronomy, and in the Quran. However, as the modern era progressed, increasingly secular, humanistic attempts were made to codify international laws of war, particularly those aimed at protecting civilian populations, other non-combatants, POWs and wounded soldiers. Two of the most famous of such efforts include the Hague and Geneva conventions.

At the end of World War II, international lawmakers focused even more stridently on preventing the future mass killings of civilians, invoking for the first time vocabulary such as "genocide" and "crimes against humanity." In 2002, the International Criminal Court, located at the Hague in the Netherlands, became fully active, and was armed with the jurisdiction to try both states and individuals for war crimes, especially when the United Nations security council refers cases to it, or when sovereign states prove either incapable of or unwilling to prosecute alleged criminals.

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