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1 History and Sources

Jean-Marie Henckaerts

From: The Oxford Guide to International Humanitarian Law

Edited By: Ben Saul, Dapo Akande

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2015. All Rights Reserved.date: 02 December 2020

Subject(s):
Armed conflict — Geneva Conventions 1949 — Customary international law — Peace treaties — Ius in bello

This introductory chapter provides an overview of international humanitarian law (IHL), which is also known as the international law of armed conflict, or simply law of armed conflict (LOAC) or law of war. The rules and principles of IHL seek to limit the effects of armed conflict and at its core, IHL aims to preserve a sense of humanity in time of war. At the same time, IHL has been developed to regulate the social reality that is armed conflict. As such, in order to provide a realistic, and hence useful, legal framework, IHL must also take into account the military needs of parties to an armed conflict in their pursuit of defeating the adversary. The development of particular treaties and specific rules of IHL over time reflects the exercise of finding the correct balance between these humanitarian and military considerations. As a branch of international law, IHL is subject to the general rules of international law, such as those related to sources, treaty interpretation, and state responsibility. The sources of international law are set out in article 38 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. This provision lists international conventions, international custom, and general principles of law as the main sources of international law in accordance with which the Court is to decide disputes submitted to it.

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