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International humanitarian law stands the test of today’s conflicts

30-09-1999 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 835, by François Bugnion

 Abstract of the article  "   Le droit international humanitaire à l’épreuve des conflits de notre temps  "  

The fall of the Berlin Wall has fundamentally changed Europe, and this has come about in a surprisingly peaceful way. However, the events of 1989-1991 have not produced a new and stable order. Conflicts have erupted in many parts of the former Soviet Union, in particular in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Tensions between the former superpowers have been replaced by a large number of local conflicts, i.e. civil wars. After analysing the characteristics of these internal armed conflicts, the author discusses the responses of existing international humanitarian law to the humanitarian issues they raise. The different measures capable of strengthening the respect for the rules are of particular importance. Recent events show, however, that the use of military force may not necessarily be the appropriate reaction to violations of humanitarian law, in particular if the number of casualties and the material damage caused by such intervention are likely to be disproportionately high. A durable international order cannot be built on force, but only on dialogue and mutual respect.

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