A private Swiss organization, the International Committee of the Red Cross, founded by Henri Dunant in Geneva after providing the victims of the Battle of Solferino in 1859 with the lack of medical care, played a key role in this codification and in the implementation of aid. In Solferino, Henri Dunant discovers the hidden face of the military confrontations between the great powers of the time: 40,000 dead and wounded by the two armies are left where they lie to become the prey of looters on the battlefield. In 1864, Dunant participated in the drafting of the first Geneva Convention for the Amelioration of the Lot of Wounded Soldiers and invited States to sign it at a diplomatic conference convened specifically for that purpose. The Convention proposed, inter alia, that States accept the work of a neutral and independent medical assistance committee empowered to pick up and treat wounded and sick soldiers, regardless of their nationality. During the War of 1870, the Committee extended its relief efforts to prisoners of war who were not covered by the First Convention. Thus, the provision of neutral humanitarian assistance preceded international humanitarian law and served as a basis for its subsequent codification by States. The Fourth Convention, devoted to the protection of civilians in time of war, was a political and legal revolution. It introduced several categories of civilians protected by international law, depending on the type of risk they face: poverty, occupation, deportation, attacks, diseases and injuries, detention, internment, etc. However, it did not cover the obligations of States involved in conflict towards their own civilian populations. This gap was filled in 1977 by two additional protocols that unified protection with regard to the concept of civilian victims of conflicts and without mentioning enemy nationality. This development, which was contained in Protocol II, was therefore applicable to non-international armed conflicts which, by their very nature, take place within the borders of a single State and are directed against national armed forces against part of their own population. This is by far the icrc`s most important function, so much could be said about it.
Henry Dunant began to act on behalf of the victims of the conflict, and direct action to help them remains the ICRC`s top priority. The ICRC is at the scene of any conflict; It visits prisoners to ensure that they are held in acceptable conditions and can communicate with their families, assists in the care of the wounded and endeavours to protect the entire civilian population from the effects of hostilities that are increasingly wreaking havoc on the civilian population. This function has taken on enormous proportions in recent years, since the war between Nigeria and Biafra. In fact, the vast majority of conflicts have occurred in countries whose inhabitants, who were barely able to earn a living even at the beginning of the conflict, have been reduced to misery and dependence. The ICRC has therefore acquired considerable expertise in areas as diverse as helping prisoners, tracing missing persons, war surgery, rehabilitation of amputees, public health, sanitation, nutrition and drinking water supply, as well as logistics, purchasing, transport and storage. Their experience has led them to reflect intensively and for a long time on emergency measures and their short- and long-term implications, not only on public health, but also on the social and cultural fabric of the country concerned; to take preventive measures during the conflict itself to ensure that the population does not become permanently dependent on aid and that an escalation of violence and hatred is avoided; and on how best to disseminate the message of international humanitarian law in time of war and peace, as indicated above. All this, of course, deserves more space here, but a more specific question can be addressed, namely the extent to which the role of direct action in armed conflicts coincides with that of the guardian of international humanitarian law. Although the term humanitarian is a word used in more and more contexts, the term humanitarian law only describes the law applicable to situations of armed conflict. Other branches of international law, such as human rights, refugee rights, peacekeeping and international cooperation, remain applicable simultaneously in most situations of unrest, tension or conflict. In fact, a number of contemporary situations hardly meet the standard legal definition of conflict.
They are part of the maintenance of peace or security management or the peaceful settlement of disputes between States as defined in the Charter of the United Nations. All these laws must be taken into account when defining the framework and content of legitimate and responsible humanitarian action. The persistence of certain violations of international humanitarian law is no longer the only or even the main reason for appealing to the ICRC to the international community. In fact, the very wide media coverage of virtually all conflicts means that very few violations remain hidden for a long time and that an ICRC response is rarely required. And yet, there are situations in which it is simply no longer possible to carry out humanitarian activities in all or part of the area affected by armed conflict. Nowadays, this scenario can be seen in two types of situations. 59. See François Bugnion, loc.
cit., note 1, pp. 803-808, 1096-1110 et seq.; Hans Haug, “Can the Red Cross help ensure peace?” IRRC, No. 240, May-June 1984, pp. 127-139; and Yves Sandoz, “The Red Cross and Peace: Realities and Limits,” Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 24, no. 3, September 1987, Special Issue on the Humanitarian Law of Armed Conflict. This article sets out the minimum level of protection to be provided in times of non-international armed conflict, as well as in situations (or for persons) that are not expressly covered by the Conventions and that are not subject to more favourable protection arrangements. 65.
See Umesh Palwankar, “Measures available to States to fulfil their obligation to ensure respect for human rights”, IRRC, No. 298, January-February 1994, pp. 9-25. In that context, it would be useful to have a clearer definition of the term “active cessation of hostilities” and when the conventions no longer applied. The precise impact of the agreements reached within the framework of the peace process on the territories occupied by Israel and on the autonomous Palestinian territories and their inhabitants could well be examined from that point of view. The first laws of war were not universal, but regional. In fact, the first Chinese treaty was written by Sun Tzu in the seventh and sixth centuries BC. Most of his principles were inspired by religion and aimed at humanizing social, political and military relations.
However, these rules were only applied between people with the same cultural background. If the enemies did not speak the same language or belong to a different religion, these rules were not respected. The theory of “just wars” or “holy wars” is an illustration of the ambiguity of such a phenomenon. This theory gradually moved from the requirement of “just war” (sacred or just end) to the requirement of “just means”. As a result, European lawyers such as Grotius, Vittoria or Vattel, as well as Muslim lawyers such as Chaybani, have transformed moral norms into legal rules, anticipating contemporary universal codification. It should be noted that in the field of ius ad gentium, important Islamic writings were written before European codification and were therefore likely to be influenced. This development has been confirmed by contemporary international law, which restricts the conditions under which a State may use force, while humanitarian law restricts the means and methods of warfare permitted, regardless of the objectives pursued. International humanitarian law is generally the preferred term (among civilian lawyers and humanitarian aid practitioners) because it places greater emphasis on the humanitarian objectives of the law of armed conflict. However, the same international conventions authorize and organize assistance to the population through humanitarian organizations and prohibit or limit the use of armed force by military commanders. International humanitarian law provides the framework for the coexistence of armed and humanitarian actors in conflict situations. .