Long before the creation of what is today called international law, there existed armed conflict. Though it was vicious and though devastated entire populations, that armed conflict took place according to a set of unspoken or customary principles, acknowledged over time. Modern day international law captured these guidelines in mostly the Geneva Conventions and the Hague Conventions, a body of international humanitarian law or the law of war and armed conflict. It must be made clear that international humanitarian law governs the conflict itself, not whether or not a state may use force. This conflict framework seeks to strike the perilous balance between protecting humanitarian and human rights concerns and preserving the rights of militaries to carry out actions. It specifically covers both the protection of civilians and those who are no longer involved in active fighting and it provides a set of restrictions on the means and methods of warfare (i.e. weapons or tactics that may be used).

 

The four Geneva Conventions of 1949 encompass the majority of the law of armed conflict and nearly every state in the world has ratified these instruments. In 1977, two additional protocols relating to the protection of victims of armed conflict were also put forth, expanding the scope of humanitarian law. Beyond these fundamental instruments, international law seeks to regulate the use of certain weapons and military maneuvers and to protect people and property.

 

This legal regime applies solely to armed conflict, not internal disturbances and isolated acts of violence. As mentioned above, this legal framework applies only once a conflict has begun and equally upon all states parties. It is clear that the law of war and armed conflict distinguishes between international and non-international armed conflict. Specifically, international armed conflicts are those in which at least two States are involved and they are governed by a wide range of rules, including those set in the Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I. In contrast, a non-international armed conflict takes place within the territory of a single State, involving either regular armed forces and armed miscreants or armed groups fighting amongst themselves. For these non-international armed conflicts, international law provides a more limited range of rules, laid down in Article 3 common to the four Geneva Conventions as well as in Additional Protocol II.

International Law Instruments

Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in the Armed Forces in the Field (1949) “First Geneva Convention”

Ratified by Pakistan on June 12, 1951

 

Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea (1949) “Second Geneva Convention”

Ratified by Pakistan on June 12, 1951

 

Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War (1949) “Third Geneva Convention”

Ratified by Pakistan on June 12, 1951

 

Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in the Time of War (1949) “Fourth Geneva Convention”

Ratified by Pakistan on June 12, 1951

 

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (1977) “Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions”

Pakistan is not a party to this Convention

 

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts (1977) “Protocol II additional to the Geneva Conventions”

Pakistan is not a party to this Convention

 

Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem (2005) “Protocol III additional to the Geneva Conventions”

 Pakistan is not a party to this Convention

 

Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954) “Hague Convention”

Ratified by Pakistan on March 27, 1959

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