IHL in action: Respect for the law on the battlefield

03 October 2023

On 27 September 2017, the ICRC launched the "IHL in Action: Respect for the Law on the Battlefield" platform, which compiles real life instances of compliance with the law. The project is designed to provide some factual evidence that helps reframe the perception of IHL being an ineffective set of rules, by showcasing situations in which the law is actually respected.

The platform recently announced the release of 77 summaries of the case studies. The summaries will provide a short overview of basic IHL rules applicable to the cases, an insight on context, and IHL compliance highlights. This will allow the platform to be more accessible to policymakers, diplomats, advocates, and beyond.

About the project

"IHL in action: Respect for the law on the battlefield" is a collection of real case-studies documenting compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) in modern warfare. Based on publically available information, these cases have been assessed by academics as demonstrating positive application of IHL.

The project has been conducted by four IHL clinics: Emory University School of Law, Leiden University, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and Roma Tre University. All cases have undergone independent peer review. The database is hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with a view to encourage the reporting, collection and promotion of instances of respect for IHL. The cases shall not be construed as reflecting the views of the ICRC.

By gathering examples of "IHL success stories" into this database, the authors aim to recall that the reality of armed conflict is more nuanced than what is generally reported in the media. Despite numerous violations of the law, compliant behaviour shows that existing rules are adequate and can significantly reduce human suffering. The project hopes to foster a change in the way we talk about, teach and research IHL. 

The case-studies can be searched by country – on a clickable map – or by topics (conduct of hostilities; protection of persons and objects; combatants and POWs; implementation mechanisms). Each case study begins with a summary of the situation and a selection of public and official documents on IHL. This is followed by a discussion section, which raises thought-provoking questions on the case at hand. The cases are intended to encourage practice-oriented thinking on the ongoing relevance of IHL in contemporary conflicts and identify elements, both legal and non-legal, that foster respect for the rules of war in armed conflicts.

Visit the IHL in Action website

Visit the IHL in Action website at ihl-in-action.icrc.org or simply click the image below.