The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Sunday it now considers the conflict in Syria a civil war, meaning international humanitarian law applies throughout the country.
The Geneva-based group’s assessment is an important reference that helps parties in a conflict determine how much and what type of force they can or cannot use.
ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said Sunday that the humanitarian law now applies wherever hostilities are taking place in Syria, where fighting has spread beyond the hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama.
International humanitarian law grants parties to a conflict the right to use appropriate force to achieve their aims. But attacks on civilians and abuse or killing of detainees can constitute war crimes.
The declaration came as Syria denied U.N. claims that government forces used heavy weapons during a military operation that has brought widespread international condemnation against President Bashar Assad’s regime. – MSNBC
Basic rules of International Humanitarian Law
- Persons hors de combat (outside of combat) and those not taking part in hostilities shall be protected and treated humanely.
- It is forbidden to kill or injure an enemy who surrenders or who is hors de combat.
- The wounded and sick shall be cared for and protected by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. The emblem of the “Red Cross,” or of the “Red Crescent,” shall be required to be respected as the sign of protection.
- Captured combatants and civilians must be protected against acts of violence and reprisals. They shall have the right to correspond with their families and to receive relief.
- No one shall be subjected to torture, corporal punishment or cruel or degrading treatment.
- Parties to a conflict and members of their armed forces do not have an unlimited choice of methods and means of warfare.
- Parties to a conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants. Attacks shall be directed solely against military objectives.
ICRC: What is international humanitarian law? PDF format (33kb)
As the armed conflict in Syria escalates and takes a heavy toll on civilians, the ICRC is appealing to all parties to the conflict to fully respect the rules and principles of international humanitarian law, which is commonly known as the laws of war.