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The use of force in international law
The use of force in international law

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2.1 Overview of international humanitarian law

If international law is, in some ways, at the vanishing point of law, the law of war is, perhaps even more conspicuously, at the vanishing point of international law.

(Lauterpacht, 1952)

International humanitarian law (IHL) acts as lex specialis (law governing a specific subject) in international law. It sets out the rules applicable to a very specific situation in international relations: the state of armed conflict.

The main aim of IHL is to limit the detrimental effects of warfare by providing protection to those who do not take part or no longer take an active part in hostilities. It also defines rules of conduct for those engaged in armed conflict and provides restrictions regarding the methods and means of warfare that can be employed.