Dot’s Reading Room: ‘The Laws of War’

October 23, 2023

In these dark and troubling times, there are many references in the media to “the laws of war.”

What, exactly, are the laws of war?

Robert Goldman, Professor of Law at American University, outlines them in this current article in “The Conversation.”

How the ‘laws of war’ apply to the conflict between Israel and Hamas

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Professor Goldman, an acknowledged expert in this field, writes:

“The laws of war, also known as International Humanitarian Law (IHL), consist of the four 1949 Geneva Conventions, their two Additional Protocols of 1977, the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907, as well as certain weapons conventions.

“Simply put, these instruments seek to spare civilians and others who are no longer active combatants from the effects of hostilities by placing restrictions and prohibitions on the conduct of warfare.

“It is important to understand that modern IHL is not concerned with the reasons for, or the legality of, going to war. Rather, that is governed by the United Nations Charter and a member state’s own practice.

“It is also important to note that violations of the laws of war are notoriously hard to prosecute and can be frustrated by lack of cooperation by the parties involved.”

Goldman believes there is “no clear answer” as to what is the nature of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

He said, “Many humanitarian law experts would argue that Hamas and Israel are engaged in what is known as a ‘non-international armed conflict.’ In other words, it would be classified the same way as a civil war that pits the armed forces of a state against an armed non-state actor, rather than an international conflict between two or more sovereign states.”

Here is the link to read more of Professor Goldman’s analysis 

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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