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Programs > International Social Services > Dissemination of International Humanitarian Law

International Humanitarian Law and Fundamental Principles for Humanitarian Action

Humanity in the midst of war is everyone's concern -- a concern that has grown with the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the U.S. military's involvement in Afghanistan.  As Americans reluctantly bid "goodbye" to loved ones deployed overseas, they also witness daily news coverage of Afghan civilians fleeing conflict.  At times like this, it is important for people to know the rules and principles that seek to limit the effects of warfare.

Yet few fully understand international humanitarian law (IHL) and how it brings help and hope during war.  Today, more than ever, there is great need for the observance of these international rules that limit the effects of war and protect vulnerable groups of people.

Over the years, millions have been spared suffering or death when nations and belligerents show respect for IHL. Wounded soldiers defenseless before an enemy, prisoners of war held far from home, civilians caught in the crossfire, medical and relief workers -- their safety and humane treatment are at the core of IHL.  Ensuring respect for IHL is the responsibility of nations but also fundamental to the mission of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement worldwide.  Since its inception more than 130 years ago, the Red Cross has played an essential role in providing protection and assistance under IHL.  When the law is understood and honored, humanity triumphs over hostility.

Today, there is also a great need for compassion and tolerance at home.  Religion, heritage, culture and language must not divide us.  Expressions about the September 11 tragedy should be respectful of all humanity, regardless of its many different faces.  The Red Cross condemns all acts of violence, terror or discrimination and appeals to everyone to join in its humanitarian efforts.

The following links have additional info. They are in PDF format. Viewing PDF files requires the Acrobat Reader, which you will need to download and install if you don't have it already.

Fundamental Principles of the RCM

International Humanitarian Law & the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement

Summary of Geneva Protocols

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