3 The Temporal and Geographic Reach of International Humanitarian Law
Edited By: Ben Saul, Dapo Akande
- Armed conflict, international — Armed conflict, non-international — Geneva Conventions 1949 — National implementation — Customary international law — Sources of international law
This chapter discusses the geographical and temporal scope of international humanitarian law (IHL). Knowing where and when the provisions of IHL start and cease to apply is vital to ensuring that the rules are respected, and to identifying where other rules of international and domestic law are pertinent or more relevant. As a general rule, IHL applies from the commencement of hostilities, whether such hostilities are international or non-international in character. In international armed conflicts (IACs), situations of belligerent occupation also trigger the applicability of IHL, even if there are no active hostilities. However, there are different thresholds applicable in international and non-international armed conflicts (NIACs). As a general rule, in both IACs and NIACs, IHL will cease to apply when there is a ‘general close of military operations’. Meanwhile, the geographical or spatial scope of IHL depends on what kind of armed conflict is taking place, with different issues arising for both NIACs and IAC.