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Red Cross launches new humanitarian law code for combat

[JURIST] At a conference in New Delhi Saturday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) [official website] launched a new code of Customary International Humanitarian Law [ICRC press release; ICRC summary] setting down universal and customary rules of combat for internal and international warfare. Originally published in March 2005, the three-volume code lists 161 general rules of combat followed by "civilized states," providing direction to combatants regarding contensious issues such as torture, attacks on innocent civilians, and using human shields. The rules are grounded in international legal precedent and current millitary standards, and are intended to be used as source of law to prosecute combatants for war crimes who are not bound by treaty. They clarify how combatants who are not members of a state army can be brought to justice, an important issue in the context of global war on terror. According to a Red Cross official, the code is:

a major step in holding to account those who commit crimes in conflicts who might not have otherwise been held to account...[The code] not only minimizes the effect of non-ratification of treaty law by some states, it also addresses the applicability of humanitarian law to non-state actors...Customary laws though unwritten are there for centuries and all civilisations have developed rules to limit violence during wars. Therefore, it is necessary to address present conflicts reminding them of traditions and customs dated back to the beginning of human history.
AFP has more. The Daily Times of Pakistan has local coverage.

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