Laws of War and International Law - Volume 3
Rene van der Wolf, Willem-Jan van der Wolf (eds.)
Pages: 452 pages
Shipping Weight: 550 gram
ISBN (softcover) : 9789462400573
This third Volume in this series on Laws of War and International Law pertains
(with Volume 2) the period 1942 – 2012.
The laws of war were born of confrontation between armed forces on the
battlefield. Until the mid-nineteenth century, these rules remained customary in
nature, recognised because they had existed since time immemorial and because
they corresponded to the demands of civilisation. All civilisations have developed rules aimed at minimising violence – even this institutionalised form of violence that we call war – since limiting violence is the very essence of civilisation. By making international law a matter to be agreed between sovereigns and by basing it on State practice and consent, Grotius and the
other founding fathers of public international law paved the way for that law to
assume universal dimensions, applicable both in peacetime and in wartime and able to transcend cultures and civilizations.
However, it was the nineteenth-century visionary Henry Dunant who was the true
pioneer of contemporary international humanitarian law. In calling for “some
international principle, sanctioned by a Convention and inviolate in character” to protect the wounded and all those trying to help them, Dunant took humanitarian law a decisive step forward. By instigating the adoption, in 1864, of the Geneva Convention for the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field, Dunant and the other founders of the International Committee of the Red Cross laid the cornerstone of treaty-based international humanitarian law.
This treaty was revised in 1906, and again in 1929 and 1949. New conventions
protecting hospital ships, prisoners of war and civilians were also adopted. The
result is the four Geneva Conventions of 1949, which constitute the foundation of international humanitarian law in force today. Acceptance by the States of these Conventions demonstrated that it was possible to adopt, in peacetime, rules to attenuate the horrors of war and protect those affected by it.
Governments also adopted a series of treaties governing the conduct of hostilities: the Declaration of St Petersburg of 1868, the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, and the Geneva Protocol of 1925, which bans the use of chemical and bacteriological weapons.
The focus in this volume is on international humanitarian law, the prohibition of weapons and the UN.