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IHL and other legal regimes

International humanitarian law and other legal regimes are complementary in armed conflicts. They are, however, distinct and separate, especially "jus in bello" (or IHL), which regulates the way war is conducted and "jus ad bellum", which covers the reasons for war. Human rights and refugee law can overlap with IHL. Read full overview

Selected Topics

  • IHL and human rights

    International humanitarian law and international human rights law are two distinct but complementary bodies of law. IHL applies in armed conflict while human rights law applies at all times, in peace and in war.

  • Near Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. International humanitarian law - refugees and displaced people. Refugees and IDPs

    Refugees are people who have crossed an international frontier, fleeing persecution in their country. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) have not crossed a border but have, for whatever reason, also fled their homes.

  • Jus in bello - Jus ad bellum

    International humanitarian law, or jus in bello, is the law that governs the way in which warfare is conducted. IHL is purely humanitarian, seeking to limit the suffering caused. It is independent from questions about the justification or reasons for war, or its prevention, covered by jus ad bellum.


  • The interplay between international humanitarian law and internationalhuman rights law in situations of armed conflict

    International human rights law and international humanitarian law are traditionally two distinct branches of law. Yet, developments in international and national jurisprudence and practice have led to the recognition that these two bodies of law not only share a common humanist ideal of dignity and integrity but overlap substantially in practice.

    26-12-2007 | International Law Forum, University of Jerusalem | Cordula Droege

  • Can "jus ad bellum" override "jus in bello"? Reaffirming the separation of the two bodies of law

    The theoretical separation of "jus ad bellum" and "jus in bello" provides important protection during armed conflict. It guarantees that "jus in bello" will apply regardless of the cause of a conflict. However, this distinction has been challenged by the view that in some cases, a situation of self-defence may be so extreme, and the threat to the survival of the State so great, that violations of "jus in bello" may be warranted.

    31-12-2008 | International Review of the Red Cross | Jasmine Moussa

Publications More publications

  • To serve and to protect: Human rights and humanitarian law for police and security forces

    Law enforcement officials play a key role in society, serving and protecting the people and upholding the law. That role is valid at all times, including during armed conflicts and other situations of violence. By engaging in dialogue with police and security forces about the law and their operations, the ICRC supports their efforts to incorporate the rules and standards of international law into their procedures.

  • International rules and standards for policing

    This brochure intended for audiences involved in law-enforcement functions addresses the principles and rules of human rights and humanitarian law relevant to professional law enforcement in democratic contexts.