The line separating disturbances and tensions from armed conflict can sometimes be blurred and the only way to categorize specific situations is by examining each individual case. This categorization has direct consequences for the armed forces and civil authorities as it does for the victims of the violence. It determines which rules apply and the protection they provide is established in greater or lesser detail according to the legal situation.
This booklet provides a summary of three different legal situations: armed conflict, situations other than armed conflict, and peace support operations. It also examines their definitions, the law applicable, practical implications and the role of the ICRC. The issues are presented in strictly legal terms. This publication does not deal with tactical considerations.