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Definitions are often the first step toward granting or denying a person's rights. In the last decade, international humanitarian law and humanitarian action have been co-opted in almost all debates related to international peace and security. It is in the name of humanitarian concerns that military interventions have been launched under the "responsibility to protect" doctrine or under an extended definition of "national security." The same humanitarian trigger has led to the creation of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the indictments of heads of state before international ad hoc tribunals and the ICC. At the same time, basic notions of humanitarian action have been put to a test by the so-called "global war on terror" and have resulted in numerous court decisions at the national and international levels. Now in a comprehensively updated edition, this indispensable handbook analyzes how international humanitarian law has evolved in the face of these many new challenges.
The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law provides the precise meaning and content for over 200 terms such as "terrorism," "refugee," "genocide," "intervention," "armed conflict" and "protection"-words that the media has introduced into everyday conversation, yet whose legal and political meanings are often obscure. The Guide definitively explains the terms, concepts, and rules of humanitarian law in accessible and reader-friendly alphabetical entries. Written from the perspective of victims and those who provide assistance to them, the Guide outlines the dangers, spells out the law, and points the way toward dealing with violations of the law. Entries are complemented by analysis of relevant courts decisions; detailed bibliographic references; addresses, phone numbers, and Internet links to the organizations presented; a thematic index; and an up-to-date list of the ratification status of the more than twenty international conventions and treaties concerning humanitarian law, human rights, refugee law, and international criminal law. Published in cooperation with Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres.