The Practical Guide to Humanitarian Law

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

The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907

These treaties are known as “The Hague Conventions” because they were adopted at the Peace Conferences that were held in The Hague, Netherlands, in 1899 and 1907. They establish the laws and customs of war in the strict sense, by defining the rules that belligerents must follow during hostilities. These rules are presented in the entry on ▸ Methods (and means) of warfare .

This branch of international law is known as the laws of war, as opposed to the one governing the right to receive relief, as defined in the Geneva Conventions that establish the protection of victims of conflict as well as the limitation of methods of warfare.

The Conventions and Declarations adopted at The Hague on 29 July 1899 concern issues such as the pacific settlement of international disputes and the laws and customs of war, which were strengthened in the 1907 Conventions. They also concern

  • the prohibition on the use of projectiles that disperse asphyxiating gas and
  • the prohibition on the use of bullets that expand or flatten easily in the human body.

The Hague Conventions of 18 October 1907, address

  • the pacific settlement of disputes (based on The Hague Convention I of 1899);
  • the opening of hostilities (The Hague Convention III);
  • the laws and customs of war (Convention IV, with annexes and regulations, which develops Convention II of 1899 and cases of military occupation);
  • the rights and duties of neutral powers in case of war on land (V);
  • the status of merchant ships at the outbreak of hostilities (VI);
  • the conversion of merchant ships into war ships (VII);
  • the laying of automatic submarine contact mines (VIII);
  • the bombardment by naval forces in time of war (IX);
  • the adaptation to maritime war of the principles of the Geneva Convention of 1906 (X);
  • restrictions with regard to the exercise of the right of capture in naval war (XI);
  • the establishment of an international prize court (XII);
  • the rights and duties of neutral powers in naval war (XIII).

Other treaties regulate the rules for the use or prohibition of certain weapons.

Geneva ConventionsInternational humanitarian lawMethods (and means) of warfareMinesWarWeapons

For Additional Information: Dinstein, Yoram. The Conduct of Hostilities under the Law of International Armed Conflict . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004, esp. chap. 1.

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