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Conduct of hostilities

International humanitarian law - Conduct of hostilities. ICRC ref. ru-d-00008-11

International law on the conduct of hostilities regulates and limits the methods and means of warfare used by parties to an armed conflict. It aims to strike a balance between legitimate military action and the humanitarian objective of reducing human suffering, particularly among civilians. Read full overview

Selected Topics

  • New technologies and international humanitarian law

    Technological developments have given rise to new methods and means of warfare, such as cyber attacks, armed drones and robots, raising novel humanitarian and legal challenges. When developing any new weapon, it is important that a State assess whether it complies with international humanitarian law.

  • Cultural property

    The protection of cultural property during armed conflict is based on the principle that damage to the cultural property of any people means, in the words of the 1954 Hague Convention, “damage to the cultural heritage of all mankind”.

  • International humanitarian law - Environment and warfare War and the natural environment

    International humanitarian law aims to protect the civilian population during armed conflict and to ensure its survival. As a result, it also seeks to protect the natural environment without which human life is impossible.


  • Reviewing the legality of new weapons, means and methods of warfare

    Parties to an armed conflict are limited in their choice of weapons, means and methods of warfare by the rules of international humanitarian law (IHL) governing the conduct of hostilities. This article goes back to the relevant rules.

    31-12-2006 | International Review of the Red Cross | Kathleen Lawand

  • Precautions under the law governing the conduct of hostilities

    This article presents a descriptive analysis of the precautions that are required of all belligerents in order to ensure the protection of civilian populations and objects against the effects of hostilities.

    31-12-2006 | International Review of the Red Cross | Jean-François Quéguiner

Publications More publications

  • Decision-making process in military combat operations

    Directed at commanders, staff officers and military doctrine writers, this practical guidance manual illustrates where and how the application of the Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) should be integrated into the operational and tactical decision-making process, as well as into operational orders in times of armed conflict. The manual is intended to help decision makers create the necessary conditions for the respect of the law in the conduct of military combat operations.

  • The use of force in armed conflicts: expert meeting

    This report provides an account of the debates that took place during a meeting of experts organized by the ICRC in January 2012 in Geneva. The subject of discussion was “Use of Force in Armed Conflicts: Interplay between the Conduct of Hostilities and Law Enforcement Paradigms.”