PHAP Online Learning Series: The Fundamental Principles of IHL Regulating Hostilities: military necessity, distinction, and proportionality

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The rules regulating the conduct of hostilities are central to the framework of international humanitarian law (IHL). This highly articulated set of rules, found in both treaty and customary law, establishes the parameters by which adversaries must conduct their operations. These rules aim to limit the effects of hostilities, and are critical to the protection of civilians during armed conflict. Implicit in each rule is a balancing of the humanitarian imperative and military necessity.

This session provided a brief introduction to the basic rules of conduct of hostilities, offering participants the opportunity to learn about the relationship between the principles of distinction and proportionality, the rules regarding precautionary measures, and the prohibition of superfluous injury and unnecessary suffering. The definition of a military objective was covered, as well as the conditions under which damage to civilian objects or injury or death to civilians may not be unlawful under IHL in certain circumstances.

This session on the basics of conduct of hostilities was followed later in 2015 by a series of more advanced sessions focusing in greater depth on a number of related issues and challenges, including so-called "targeted killings" and direct participation in hostilities by civilians.

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