What Is Not Allowed In War?

What Is Not Allowed In War?

What Is Not Allowed In War?

War is a brutal and devastating event that has plagued humanity throughout history. In an attempt to mitigate the horrors of armed conflict, international laws and conventions have been established to regulate the conduct of warfare. These rules, known as the laws of war or international humanitarian law, outline what is permissible and what is strictly prohibited during times of armed conflict. Let’s delve into what is not allowed in war and why it matters.

What is international humanitarian law?
International humanitarian law (IHL) is a set of rules that seek to protect those who are not or are no longer participating in hostilities, such as civilians and prisoners of war. It aims to limit the suffering caused by armed conflicts and ensure that certain fundamental principles are respected, even in the midst of war.

Prohibited acts in war
There are several acts that are strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law. These include:

1. Targeting civilians: Deliberately attacking civilians or civilian objects, such as homes, schools, or hospitals, is strictly forbidden. The principle of distinction requires parties to a conflict to distinguish between military targets and civilians, ensuring that attacks are directed solely at legitimate military objectives.

2. Indiscriminate attacks: Conducting attacks that cannot be directed at a specific military objective or that would cause excessive harm to civilians is prohibited. This includes using weapons or tactics that are likely to cause excessive collateral damage or harm to civilians.

3. Torture and inhumane treatment: Torturing or subjecting individuals to cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment is strictly prohibited. This extends to both combatants and non-combatants, including prisoners of war and detainees.

4. Using prohibited weapons: The use of certain weapons, such as chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, is strictly prohibited under international law. These weapons cause indiscriminate and long-lasting harm, affecting both combatants and civilians.

Why does it matter?
Adhering to the laws of war is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it helps protect the lives and well-being of civilians caught in the crossfire. By distinguishing between military targets and civilians, parties to a conflict can minimize civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.

Secondly, upholding these laws helps maintain a sense of humanity even in the midst of war. By prohibiting acts such as torture and inhumane treatment, IHL ensures that individuals are treated with dignity and respect, regardless of their status.

Lastly, respecting the laws of war contributes to the establishment of a more stable and peaceful post-conflict environment. By holding individuals accountable for their actions during war, IHL helps prevent future conflicts and promotes reconciliation.


Q: What happens if these laws are violated?
A: Violations of international humanitarian law can result in legal consequences, including criminal prosecution at both national and international levels.

Q: Are there any exceptions to these rules?
A: While there are certain exceptions and nuances in specific situations, the core principles of international humanitarian law remain applicable in all armed conflicts.

Q: Who enforces these laws?
A: The enforcement of international humanitarian law is primarily the responsibility of states. However, international courts and tribunals, such as the International Criminal Court, also play a role in prosecuting individuals accused of war crimes.

In conclusion, understanding what is not allowed in war is essential for promoting respect for human life and minimizing the suffering caused by armed conflicts. By upholding the laws of war, we can strive towards a more humane and peaceful world, even in the darkest of times.