The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

« Calling things by the wrong name adds to the affliction of the world. » Albert Camus.


Under humanitarian law, all persons who are not or no longer taking part in hostilities are protected. In the context of international armed conflicts, they are referred to as “protected persons,” but they benefit from protection under humanitarian law in non-international conflicts as well. The Geneva Conventions make a distinction between several categories of persons: the wounded and sick (whether military or civilian), prisoners of war, interned or detained civilians, and civilians in occupied or enemy territory. All individuals must be treated humanely. Each category of persons benefits from a general regime of protection, which is specifically adapted to their situation. Fundamental guarantees are also provided as a minimum to all persons.

CiviliansCombatantsFundamental guaranteesProtected persons

For Additional Information: Dinstein, Yoram. The Conduct of Hostilities under the Law of International Armed Conflict . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Henckaerts, Jean-Marie, and Louise Doswald-Beck, eds. Customary International Law . Vol. 1, The Rules . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, part 5.

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