War crimes

Authored by: Anthony Cullen

Routledge Handbook of International Criminal Law

Print publication date:  November  2010
Online publication date:  November  2010

Print ISBN: 9780415552035
eBook ISBN: 9780203836897
Adobe ISBN: 9781136866685

10.4324/9780203836897.ch9

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Abstract

For the purposes of international criminal law, war crimes constitute violations of international humanitarian law that are criminalized under treaty law or customary international law. International humanitarian law, also referred to as the law of war or the law of armed conflict, may be defined as:

a set of international rules, established by treaty or custom, which are specifically intended to solve humanitarian problems, directly arising from international or non-international armed conflicts, and which, for humanitarian reasons, limit the right of Parties to a conflict to use the methods and means of warfare of their choice or protect persons and property that are, or may be, affected by conflict. 2

International humanitarian law concerns the rules that govern relations between parties engaged in armed conflict (jus in bello). It is not concerned with the legality of the armed conflict per se or the rules governing the resort to the use of force (jus ad bello). 3 Often referred to as the law of war, the object and purpose of international humanitarian law concerns the protection of the victims of armed conflict. 4 Guided by principles of military necessity, 5 humanity, 6 distinction 7 and proportionality, 8 it limits the means and methods that may be employed by parties to an armed conflict.

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