The Hague Convention on Armed Conflict and International Law is an agreement between signatory states that establishes rules and regulations regarding the conduct of hostilities during armed conflict. The Convention is also known as the Hague Regulations, and its full title is the Convention (IV) Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land and its annex: Regulations Concerning the Laws and Customs of War on Land. The Hague Convention was first adopted in 1899, and last revised in 1907. It has been ratified by 170 states.
The principles contained in the Hague Convention on Armed Conflict and International Law are generally accepted by the international community and provide a framework for the conduct of hostilities. The principles are designed to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure from the effects of armed conflict and to facilitate the humanitarian relief effort. The principles are not intended to be a complete code of conduct for the conduct of hostilities, but rather a set of general principles that should be adhered to in all circumstances.
Protection of the Civilian Population
The Hague Convention on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict sets out clear rules prohibiting attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools. The Convention also establishes the principle of proportionality, which prohibits attacks that would cause excessive civilian casualties in relation to the anticipated military gain.
In recent years, there has been an alarming increase in attacks on civilians in armed conflict. In Syria, for example, over 400,000 civilians have been killed since the conflict began in 2011. In Yemen, over 10,000 civilians have been killed since 2015. And in Afghanistan, the number of civilian casualties has reached a record high in recent years.
The international community must do more to protect civilians in armed conflict. First and foremost, states must comply with their obligations under the Hague Convention. Secondly, the international community must provide more support to civilian protection initiatives, such as the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The protection of civilians in armed conflict is a complex challenge, but it is one that the international community must continue to work on if we are to live up to our responsibility to protect.
Treatment of Prisoners of War
The Third Geneva Convention of 1949, relative to the treatment of prisoners of war, applies to armed conflicts not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties. Even in armed conflicts not of an international character, the Parties to the conflict must at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and direct their operations only against military objectives. In addition, the Parties to the conflict are obliged to take all feasible precautions to spare the civilian population, civilians and civilian objects.
Under the Third Geneva Convention, prisoners of war are to be treated humanely at all times. They are not to be subjected to any form of violence, nor to any insulting or humiliating treatment. They are to be protected against all acts of intimidation and against insults and public curiosity.
Prisoners of war are entitled to receive adequate food and water, medical care and clothing. They are to be allowed to exercise and to receive mail. They are also entitled to protection from the elements and from the danger of aerial bombardment.
In addition, the Third Geneva Convention provides for the release and repatriation of prisoners of war at the end of hostilities.
Repatriation and Restitution
The Hague Convention on Armed Conflict and International Law is a treaty that was signed in 1907. The treaty regulates the conduct of war and establishes rules for the repatriation of prisoners of war and the restitution of property that has been confiscated. The treaty also provides for the protection of civilians and prohibits the use of certain weapons.