International Humanitarian Law


International Humanitarian Law - Research Guide International Law

International Humanitarian Law, also known as the Laws of War or Law of Armed Conflict is the part of public international law that regulates international and non-international armed conflict. International Humanitarian Law consists of the rules applicable during the conflict. These rules also apply to a situation of occupation arising from armed conflict. The International Humanitarian Law rules can be found in both treaties and international customary law. The main objective of these rules is to provide protection to the civilian population and civilian objects as well as to those persons who are no longer taking part in the hostilities. In addition, International Humanitarian Law rules aim to restrict the methods and means of warfare used during the hostilities by the parties involved. The International Committee of the Red Cross, a non-governmental humanitarian organization with its headquarter in Geneva, is the primary institution for International Humanitarian Law. Established in 1863, the initiatives of the ICRC have greatly contributed to the development of international humanitarian law. The ICRC also monitors the implementation of International Humanitarian Law rules and norms.

This Guide is intended as a starting point for research on International Humanitarian Law. It provides a selection of the legal materials available in the Peace Palace Library, both in print and electronic format. Manuals, leading articles, bibliographies, periodicals, serial publications and documents of interest are presented in the Bibliography section. There are also links to the PPL Catalogue inserted. The Library's systematic index code, i.e., 211  and keyword International Humanitarian Law are instrumental for searching through the Catalogue. Special attention is given to our subscriptions on databases, e-journals, e-books and other electronic resources. Finally, the Research Guide features links to relevant websites and other online resources of particular interest. Updated regularly in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Library in Geneva.


Reference works




Periodicals, serial publications


New titles

Updated every Friday morning.

The Peace Palace Library has a collection of over a million publications. Each week, about six hundred new titles are added to our collection: books, articles, documents, online publications, etc. On this page, access is provided to this week’s new titles on International Humanitarian Law.

1. Anwendung militärischer Gewalt in dicht besiedelten gebieten
Anwendung militärischer Gewalt in dicht besiedelten gebieten / Stefanie Haumer, Katja Schöberi In: Humanitäres Völkerrecht = ISSN 0937-5414: vol. 28, issue 3, page 100-104. - 2015
Keywords: Armed conflicts, Combatants and non-combatants, Protection of civilian persons, International obligations, International humanitarian law,

2. Strafverfolgung von Kriegsverbrechen
Strafverfolgung von Kriegsverbrechen : aktuelle Verfahren in Deutschland und vor dem Internationalen Strafgerichtshof / Andreas Schüller In: Humanitäres Völkerrecht = ISSN 0937-5414: vol. 28, issue 3, page 115-119. - 2015
Keywords: Germany, International Criminal Court, War crimes, Prosecution, International humanitarian law,

3. Non-State Armed Actors and International Humanitarian Law
Non-State Armed Actors and International Humanitarian Law : a Demanding Relationship? / Stefanie Haumer In: Humanitäres Völkerrecht = ISSN 0937-5414: vol. 28, issue 3, page 120-125. - 2015
Keywords: Armed conflicts, Non-State actors, International obligations, International humanitarian law,

4. Völkerrechtliche Pflichten im Vorfeld militärischer Gewaltanwendung
Völkerrechtliche Pflichten im Vorfeld militärischer Gewaltanwendung : Aktuelle Entwicklungen bei der Prüfung neuer Waffen und Methoden der Kriegführung / Stefan Sohm In: Humanitäres Völkerrecht = ISSN 0937-5414: vol. 28, issue 3, page 104-110. - 2015
Keywords: Germany, War, Arms, International obligations, Legal regime, International humanitarian law,

5. Applying Jus in Bello Proportionality to Drone Warfare
Applying Jus in Bello Proportionality to Drone Warfare / by David Akerson In: Oregon Review of International Law = ISSN 1543-9860: vol. 16, issue 2, page 173-224. - 2014
Keywords: United States of America, Armed conflicts, Terrorism, Unmanned vehicles, International humanitarian law, Proportionality,

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  • Kolb, R., Advanced Introduction to International Humanitarian Law, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2015.

    Kolb, R., Advanced Introduction to International Humanitarian Law, Cheltenham, Edward Elgar, 2015

    This innovative book provides a thought-provoking introduction to international humanitarian law (IHL). Robert Kolb explores the field through questions – which are at times challenging and controversial – in order to get to the very essence of the subject and give a fresh perspective. The result is an exposition both of the law as it stands, through its written and unwritten rules, and also of the uncertainties, gaps, controversies and practical problems which have arisen. IHL is revealed as a living tool, an ever-adapting means to an ever-remaining need of protection during times of armed conflict.

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  • Burri, N., Bravery or Bravado?: The Protection of News Providers in Armed Conflict, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2015.

    Burri, N., Bravery or Bravado The Protection of News Providers in Armed Conflict, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2015

    During the last decade, the image of war correspondents in the news has shifted dramatically. Reports are no longer full of cheerleading stories of embedded journalists. Instead, stories of war reporters being attacked, kidnapped or injured prevail. Sadly, the former heroic witnesses to war have become victims of their own story. In this book, Nina Burri provides the first comprehensive analysis on how international law protects professional and citizen journalists, photographers, cameramen and their support staff during times of war. Using examples from recent armed conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Gaza and Syria, Burri explores the means, methods and risks of contemporary war coverage and examines the protection of news providers by international humanitarian law, international criminal law and human rights law.

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  • Turner Johnson, J., and E.D. Patterson (eds.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Military Ethics, Farnham, Ashgate, 2015.

    Turner Johnson, J., and E.D. Patterson (eds.), The Ashgate Research Companion to Military Ethics, Farnham, Ashgate, 2015.

    This Companion provides professionals who deal with military law and with international law on armed conflicts, with a comprehensive and authoritative state-of-the-art review of current research in the area of military ethics. Topics in this volume reflect both perennial and pressing contemporary issues in the ethics of the use of military force and are written by established professionals and respected commentators. Subjects are organized by three major perspectives on the use of military force: the decision whether to use military force in a given context, the matter of right conduct in the use of such force, and ethical responsibilities beyond the end of an armed conflict. Treatment of issues in each of these sections takes account of both present-day moral challenges and new approaches to these and the historical tradition of just war. Military ethics, as it has developed, has been a particularly Western concern and this volume reflects that reality. However, in a globalized world, awareness of similarities and differences between Western approaches and those of other major cultures is essential. For this reason the volume concludes with chapters on ethics and war in the Islamic, Chinese, and Indian traditions, with the aim of integrating reflection on these approaches into the broad consideration of military ethics provided by this volume

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  • Mehring, S., First Do No Harm: Medical Ethics in International Humanitarian Law, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2014.

    Mehring, S., First Do No Harm: Medical Ethics in International Humanitarian Law, Leiden, Brill Nijhoff, 2014.

    Although working on the sidelines of armed conflicts, physicians are often at the centre of attention. First Do No harm: Medical Ethics in International Humanitarian Law was born from the occasionally controversial role of physicians in recent armed conflicts and the legal and ethical rules that frame their actions. While international humanitarian, human rights and criminal law provide a framework of rights and obligations that bind physicians in armed conflicts, the reference to ‘medical ethics’ in the laws of armed conflict adds an extra-legal layer. In analysing both the legal and the ethical framework for physicians in armed conflict, the book is invaluable to practitioners and legal scholars alike.

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  • Dinstein, Y., Non-International Armed Conflicts in International Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    Dinstein, Y., Non-International Armed Conflicts in International Law, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    This dispassionate analysis of the legal implications of non-international armed conflicts explores the rules regulating the conduct of internal hostilities, as well as the consequences of intervention by foreign States, the role of the Security Council, the effects of recognition, State responsibility for wrongdoing by both Governments and insurgents, the interface with the law of human rights and the notion of war crimes. The author addresses both conceptual and specific issues, such as the complexities of 'failing' States or the recruitment and use of child soldiers. He makes use of the extensive case law of international courts and tribunals, in order to identify and set out customary international law. Much attention is also given to the contents of available treaty texts (primarily, the Geneva Conventions, Additional Protocol II and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court): what they contain and what they omit.

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  • Nasu, H., and R. McLaughlin (eds.), New Technologies and the Law of Armed Conflict, The Hague, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2014.

    Nasu, H., and R. McLaughlin (eds.), New Technologies and the Law of Armed Conflict, The Hague, T.M.C. Asser Press, 2014.

    Modern technological development has been both rapid and fundamentally transformative of the means and methods of warfare, and of the broader environment in which warfare is conducted. In many cases, technological development has been stimulated by, and dedicated to, addressing military requirements. On other occasions, technological developments outside the military sphere affect or inform the conduct of warfare and military expectations. The introduction of new technologies such as information technology, space technologies, nanotechnology and robotic technologies into our civil life, and into warfare, is expected to influence the application and interpretation of the existing rules of the law of armed conflict. In this book, scholars and practitioners working in the fields critically examine the potential legal challenges arising from the use of new technologies and future directions of legal development in light of the specific characteristics and challenges each technology presents with regard to foreseeable humanitarian impacts upon the battlespace.

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  • An Ad Hoc Hybrid Special Court for Sri Lanka: What Does It Take?

    On 16 September 2015, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka issued two reports on promoting reconciliation, accountability and human rights in Sri Lanka. Their recommendation: the creation of an ad hoc hybrid special court to try war crimes and crimes against humanity. Which crimes were committed and how did the international community reach such a recommendation? This post will take a look at the civil war which plagued Sri Lanka for 25 years, the subsequent international response and finally, what does it take to create an ad hoc hybrid tribunal?

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  • More Legal Protection for Journalists?

    On May first people around the world celebrate International Workers’ Day. Less known to the public are the festivities which take place Sunday, May third, in honor of World Press Freedom Day. On this date the international community celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom; to evaluate press freedom around the world, to defend the media from attacks on their independence and to pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession.

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  • Drones Deployed during War raise Various Legal and Ethical Questions

    Drones can be used for many different purposes. The use of drones raises various legal and ethical questions ranging from humanitarian to privacy issues. The Peace and Security Salon of 9 April discussed these questions in the context of the deployment of armed drones and robots during wartime. Three specialists each discussed the use of drones from a different background.

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  • Drones and Robots as Means of Modern Warfare

    Several aspects of autonomous weapons systems and the deployment of drones during warfare will be discussed during the upcoming Peace and Security Salon: “Drones and Robots as means of modern warfare” which will be held at the Peace Palace Library on Thursday, the 9th of april. The use of drones as a weapons system has increased exponentially in recent years and this has given rise to a significant degree of controversy and a number of specific questions relating to their use. Questions which arise in relation to drones and autonomous weapons systems include whether they are in conformity with or potentially capable of complying with IHL requirements in conditions of contemporary warfare, issues of accountability and responsibility and ethical questions.

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  • Are There Limits To Warfare?

    Pro-Russian separatists marched captured Ukrainian soldiers through the streets of the eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk over the weekend. The march was a news event that got the attention of many, including international human rights activists, calling the march a violation of the Geneva Conventions’ rules on the treatment of prisoners of war (POWs). The Geneva Conventions are at the core of international humanitarian law and provide a detailed framework for the protection of prisoners of war during armed conflict.

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  • Hague Academy Model United Nations on Drone Warfare and International Law

    Directed energy weapons, drones, self targeting bullets, mobile tactical high energy lasers, military robots, spy weapons, weapons undetectable under an x-ray scan, remote controlled insect armies, self driving tanks, robotic mules, thermal camouflage, surveillance technologies and autonomous unmanned systems are some examples of the high tech weapons and military technology that are now used during warfare. The use of this state of the art military technology raises serious ethical and legal questions: (when) is the use of drones acceptable?

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  • 60th Anniversary of the UNESCO 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Heritage in the Event of an Armed Conflict

    The 1954 Convention is the basic international treaty formulating rules to protect cultural heritage during armed conflicts. It regulates the conduct of nations during war and military occupation in order to assure the protection of cultural sites, monuments and repositories, including museums, libraries and archives. A Round table meeting in the Peace Palace is organized on Monday, 12 May 2014.

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  • Crimes against Cultural Property in Mali

    In an earlier Peace Palace Library blog (Cultucide in Timbuktu: Shari’a and war crimes) Ingrid Kost wrote that the Islamist Group Ansar (Ed)dine (“Defenders of the Faith”) destroyed some of the age-old mausolea of Sufi Saints in Timbuktu, Mali. One of the major causes of destruction of cultural property (the illicit trading, stealing and looting of cultural property is not covered in this blog) over the ages has been armed conflict. Crimes against cultural property should therefore be addressed properly.

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  • Colombia: At Last Peace with the FARC?

    Columbia’s fourth attempt at peace with the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia (FARC) started formally last month in Oslo and will continue the 15th of November in Havana, Cuba. The earlier attempts- starting in 1984, 1990 and 1998- to end one of Latin America’s longest and bloodiest armed conflict all failed. Why would the outcome of the peace talks this time be different?

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  • The Legality of Drone Attacks

    According to a recent report by Stanford and New York Universities’ law schools (Living Under Drones), the current US drone strike policy is counterproductive, has injured and killed civilians and undermines respect for international law. This blog explores briefly both the ius ad bellum and ius in bello implications of drone attacks.

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  • The Body Counts : Civilian Casualties in War

    Throughout the post Cold War period there has been a widespread view that war and armed conflict have changed radically since the First World War to the point where some 80-90% of war victims are now civilians. Many modern wars have been accompanied by significant depopulations, along with destruction of infrastructure and resources.

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  • The International Criminal Court Delivers Judgment on Child Soldiers

    On Wednesday 14 March, Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) delivered it’s first verdict. In a unanimous decision three judges convicted Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of the war crimes of conscripting, enlisting, and using children under the age of 15 to participate actively in hostilities. With this judgment the ICC firmly establishes the use of children in armed conflict as an international crime and also focuses renewed attention on the many thousands of children still used in various other conflicts in the world.

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  • A Licence to Kill? The assassination of Osama Bin Laden: Has the USA gone too far in acting as a policeman or was the raid justified?

    Osama Bin Laden (OBL) is dead. He was killed by a special ops team from the United States of America (USA), “after a firefight.” After OBL had been assassinated, the special team of SEALS took the deceased body of the dangerous mastermind terrorist and several hard drives from the compound in Abbottabad. Bin laden had been hiding there with his family for several years without being noticed. When the Pentagon researched the hard drives, it appeared that OBL had been planning new attacks, at least on several US cities and also on European locations. Upon hearing this news so many have sighed with relief that the secret services of the USA found out about these planned attacks before they could actually take place. Obama, President of the USA stated that “justice had been done” by executing OBL. But “what kind of justice” The assassination also led to a lot of questions and criticism: Was the raid justified?

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  • Dresden 1945: An Allied War Crime?

    Since 1945, the bombing of Dresden is considered by many as a violation of international law and as a crime against humanity, even though positive rules of international humanitarian law were absent at the time. The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, were among the first formal statements of the laws of war and war crimes in the nascent body of international law. However these conventions, adressing the codes of wartime conduct on land and at sea, were adopted before the rise of air power. Despite repeated diplomatic attempts (→ The Hague Rules of Air Warefare 1922/1923) to update international humanitarian law to include aerial warfare, it was not done before the outbreak of World War II. The absence of positive international humanitarian law does not mean that the laws of war did not cover aerial warfare, but there was no general agreement of how to interpret those laws. The aerial bombardment of Dresden does not only raise the question as to whether or not it was an Allied war crime, but it also makes a moral appeal to prevent total war against civilian populations. It’s memory is kept alive.

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  • “De bijdrage van Nederland aan de codificatie van het moderne humanitaire recht (1800-1914)”

    A legal historical study of the development of international humanitarian law in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century in the Netherlands.Recently the Peace Palace Library received a gift from the children of D.J.H.N. den Beer Poortugael (Herman den Beer Poortugael). The gift, a book titled: “De bijdrage van Nederland aan de […]

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  • New Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) to be signed on December 3, 2008

    Cluster Bomb Tour Bus takes on Eastern Europe On Wednesday, 1st October an eight-week campaign trail through Europe was launched to convince all governments to sign a groundbreaking treaty banning cluster bombs, in Oslo on December 3, 2008. Beginning in Belgrade, Serbia and ending at the signing ceremony in Norway, the Ban Bus will rally […]

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  • Judgement of the ICTY Appeals Chamber in the 'Dubrovnik' Case

    On Thursday, 17 July, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) rendered its judgement [PDF document] on the appeals of both the Prosecution and the Defense against the conviction and sentence of the former Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA) General Pavle Strugar (Case No. IT-01-42-A).

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