Skip to Main Content

International Humanitarian Law


The United Nations Security Council

The UN Charter established the six main organs of the United Nations, including the Security Council. The Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. It may meet whenever peace is threatened.


International Humanitarian Law: Key Documents and Treaties

The Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols prohibit all attacks on civilians and others not taking part in combat, and require that they be protected. The ICRC Geneva Conventions website contains the text of and commentaries on the four Geneva conventions on international humanitarian law and their two additional protocols. 

The international humanitarian law Treaty database,  compiled by the ICRC, includes 100 treaties and other texts which include law protecting the victims of war and law governing the conduct of hostilities, from 1856 to the present. The full text of the treaties can be downloaded or individual articles viewed. The treaties are browsable by subject and date.

The ICRC has produced a Map of State Parties to the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols, current as at December 2013.


Customary IHL 
Customary IHL is of crucial importance in today’s armed conflicts because it fills gaps left by treaty law.

The ICRC's customary international humanitarian law site includes the customary IHL database which provides:

  1. An analysis of existing customary rules of IHL deemed applicable in international and non-international armed conflict; and
  2. Underlying State practice relating to most aspects of IHL, as expressed in national legislation, military manuals, official statements and case law, and the practice of other entities such as international organisations and international courts and tribunals. This part of the database is regularly updated.