International humanitarian law

Rebecca Sutton, Orly Stern

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter considers international humanitarian law (IHL) and identifies two areas where IHL is under strain in ‘new wars’: the regulation of violence and the provision of humanitarian assistance. The chapter sets out the fundamental principles of IHL, including the principles of ‘distinction’, ‘proportionality’ and ‘necessity’ and the determiners of whether an ‘armed conflict’ exists, which triggers the application of IHL. This chapter analyses the various challenges that new wars pose for IHL’s application, due to the differing actors involved, the goals of those who use violence, and the tactics that the fighters of new wars choose to employ. New wars fail to conform to many of IHL’s underlying assumptions about armed conflict and how these are fought, with this contributing to problems with compliance. Challenges in regulation are compounded in conflicts classified as non-international armed conflict. Significant problems also arise with respect to the provision of humanitarian assistance in these conflicts, and this chapter describes the laws that pertain to humanitarian assistance and their application in new wars. There are evident problems concerning the misuse of humanitarian assistance by belligerents, as well as legal issues regarding consent and relating to protections afforded to humanitarian actors who deliver relief.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHumanitarianism
Subtitle of host publicationA Dictionary of Concepts
EditorsTim Allen, Anna Macdonald, Henry Radice
ISBN (Electronic)9780203486863
ISBN (Print)9781857432817
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2018


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