About the project

“IHL in action: Respect for the law on the battlefield” is a collection of real case-studies documenting compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) in modern warfare. Based on publicly available information, these cases have been assessed by academics as demonstrating respect for IHL.

The project has been conducted by four IHL clinics: Emory University School of Law, Leiden University, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya and Roma Tre University. All cases have undergone independent peer review. The database is hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) with a view to encourage the reporting, collection and promotion of instances of respect for IHL. The cases shall not be construed as reflecting the views of the ICRC.

By gathering examples of “IHL success stories” into this database, the authors aim to recall that the reality of armed conflict is more nuanced than what is generally reported in the media and by NGOs. Despite numerous violations of the law, compliant behaviour shows that existing rules are adequate and can significantly reduce human suffering. The project hopes to foster a change in the way we talk about, teach and research IHL. The cases reproduced should not be seen as ignoring the suffering of victims of armed conflicts, both by attacks which do not violate IHL and by violations of IHL, committed by the same party whose respect is mentioned in the cases reproduced. 

The case-studies can be searched by country – on a clickable map – or by topics (conduct of hostilities; protection of persons and objects; combatants and POWs; implementation mechanisms). Each case study begins with a summary of the situation and a selection of public and official documents on IHL. This is followed by a discussion section, which raises thought-provoking questions on the case at hand. The cases are intended to encourage practice-oriented thinking on the ongoing relevance of IHL in contemporary conflicts and identify elements, both legal and non-legal, that foster respect for the rules of war in armed conflicts.

As the project is ongoing and aims for a growing number of “success stories”, the ICRC calls for more cases to be submitted to enrich the database.

Collaborating Partners
  • IDC University
  • Leiden University
  • Roma Tre University

Disclaimer

The aim of this database is solely to encourage practice-oriented thinking on compliance with international humanitarian law (IHL) and the elements that underpin it, by providing a selection of documents and resources on past and current practice in this domain. The opinions expressed in the cases included on this website are not to be taken as those of the ICRC or of the authors. No description of facts in any document reproduced on this website can be construed as the opinion of the ICRC or of the authors. Where cases illustrate examples of respect for IHL, under no circumstances must this be perceived as minimizing any violations that may have occurred in the same conflict situations. Neither can it be perceived as legitimizing the behaviour of any belligerents. Several cases demonstrate how behaviour changed over time and therefore also refer to the violations that precipitated the need for such change. Their inclusion is not to be taken as an endorsement of any past violations; they are reproduced merely to show how practice can evolve over time and that respect for and violations of IHL often occur in the same context. While utmost care has been taken to cross-reference sources to ensure their accuracy, it is often difficult to obtain undisputed confirmation of instances in which IHL has been observed correctly. This is largely because such instances are not as widely reported as those in which the law is violated. Similarly, some conflict situations generate more interest – from the media, NGOs, legal and academic circles, etc. – than others, and this is necessarily reflected in the distribution of cases included in the database. While it may seem unequal, rest assured that the authors did everything possible to ensure fair representation of contexts and conflict parties. In selecting cases, the authors also chose to reproduce documents that illustrate or discuss legal and non-legal elements that may contribute to respect for IHL. All reproduced documents are either the official English version, where one exists, or a version translated into English by the ICRC.