Customary International Humanitarian Law Database

In 1996, the International Committee of the Red Cross conducted a study on the rules of customary international law which was eventually published in 2005 by Cambridge University Press. Today, researchers can access a free and expanded online version of this study in the form of the ICRC Customary IHL database.  Part I of the database analyses the rules of IHL applicable to all international and non-international armed conflicts. Part II summarizes State practice relating to these laws, in the form of national legislation, military manuals, case law, official statements, and the practice of international organizations.  IHL is a vast area of international law, encompassing such subtopics as:

  • Weapons of warfare (legal & illegal), such as nuclear weapons, chemical & biological weapons, landmines, incendiary  weapons, and blinding laser weapons;
  • The treatment of civilians, including prohibitions on torture, slavery, forced labor, hostage-taking, enforced disappearance, rape and forced prostitution, and the recruitment of child soldiers;
  • Specifically protected persons & objects, including medical personnel, religious personnel, humanitarian relief personnel, journalists, cultural property, and neutralized zones.
  • The principle of distinction, encompassing definitions of combatants, civilians, military objectives, indiscriminate attacks, proportionality in attack, and target selection.