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Vol 21 No 11 Nov/Dec 2016

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Laws of War and International Law: Volume 3

Edited by: Rene van der Wolf, Willem-Jan van der Wolf

ISBN13: 9789462400573
Published: November 2013
Publisher: Wolf Legal Publishers
Country of Publication: The Netherlands
Format: Paperback
Price: £40.00



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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.