Glossary of terms

ad hoc tribunals

the tribunals set up in the 1990s to prosecute violations of IHL in the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and Rwanda (ICTR)


a nation or person engaging in a war or conflict


a person entitled to take direct part in hostilities


non-combatants; people who are not members or their country’s armed forces, police force or militia.

conventions, agreements, and instruments

other names that can be used for treaties


to rob or deprive of valuables

Geneva law

the international law relating to the protection of persons in armed conflict – named after the city where the major documents on the protection of persons in armed conflict were drafted and adopted


member of an irregular armed force that fights a larger force using tactics of sabotage, harassment and unexpected attacks.

Hague law

the international law relating to the conduct of hostilities – named after the city where the major documents on the conduct of hostilities were drafted and adopted

High Contracting Party

the term given to States having signed and ratified a treaty – in this case, the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols

hors de combat(Fr)

out of combat – someone who is not taking part in hostilities


the International Court of Justice, the primary judicial organ of the United Nations, based in The Hague, in the Netherlands


the International Committee of the Red Cross, the private, Swiss-based humanitarian institution, tasked with the international mandate to protect the victims of armed conflict


people who rise in revolt against existing authority

jus ad bellum (L)

the international law governing the use of force

jus in bello (L)

the international law governing the conduct of hostilities, justice in war


materials used in war, especially weapons and ammunition


military weapons

opinio juris (L)

the belief that a practice is required by law


name often given to treaties that relate to or attach in some way to previously adopted treaties, page 4


robbing and looting, especially in war time


forbid by law

protected person

a person who enjoys a special status under IHL, such as civilians, prisoners of war, and the wounded, sick or shipwrecked


inflicting punishment; intended as punishment


to sign or give formal consent to; make officially valid


modifying the scope of the legal obligation under a treaty


written international agreements between States, governed by international law


involving or affecting one party only