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

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Historical development of IHL

Although the customary principles regarding the conduct of hostilities have been formed over centuries, the origins of contemporary IHL go back to the nineteenth century and the battle of Solferino (1859). Henri Dunant, a Swiss businessman who witnessed the grave suffering resulting from this battle, was appalled by the extent of human suffering and the lack of assistance to the sick and wounded. Dunant organised local residents to provide help to the victims of the battle. The humanitarian treatment of those no longer participating in hostilities later became the core principle enshrined in the first Geneva Convention in 1864.

Upon his return to Geneva, Dunant wrote a book, A Memory of Solferino, which eventually led to the establishment of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in 1863 – an organisation that promotes and guards the principles of IHL to this day.

The ICRC has three emblems (Figure 3); their purpose is to make combatants aware that people, buildings and vehicles bearing the symbols are protected under the 1949 Geneva Conventions and should not be the object of attack.

Described image
Figure 3 The three emblems of the ICRC: (a) red cross; (b) red crescent; (c) red crystal