International humanitarian law (IHL)/Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC)

International humanitarian law (IHL) is also known as the law of armed conflict (LOAC). IHL applies only at times of armed conflict, placing legal obligations on all warring parties that are designed to limit the inhumanity of warfare. The main source of IHL are the four Geneva Conventions and their additional protocols. The ICRC holds a specific mandate to promote and defend their development and compliance. The rights and protections of IHL rest upon a key distinction between combatants and civilians, where only the former is a legitimate target of attack. This core distinction yields key IHL principles, such as the prohibition on indiscriminate attacks and the doctrine of proportionality. IHL also contains specific protections, such as for medical personnel, hospitals, prisoners of war, cultural objects (e.g., mosques, churches) and objects essential to survival (e.g., fields, water sources).

Civilians evacuating destroyed area

Photo: Iyad al Baba/Oxfam

Latest content

Applicability of Additional Protocol I in different types of conflict (2/27/2019)

/images/experts/BoutrucheTheo500.jpg Théo Boutruche

Community update: Cultural heritage (1954 Hague Convention, add. protection designations, etc.) (1/10/2019)

/images/experts/JacksonRichard250.jpg Dick Jackson

Key references

A reference for humanitarian practitioners, organized by topic

An introductory handbook on IHL, in line with the ICRC's reading of the law

PHAP certifications

Certification badge for International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA)

Knowledge about IHL/LOAC for humanitarian actors is covered by the International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action (ILFHA) certification (competency domain 3).

Key actors

Guardian and promoter of international humanitarian law, and provides assistance and protection for victims of armed conflict and other situations of violence

Upcoming courses:

24-28 June:

8-12 July:

16-20 September: