Mélange du Mercredi/Droit International Humanitaire

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Droit International Humanitaire
by Jean D’Aspremont and Jerome de Hemptinne

This review was written by Antoine P. Kabore, Teaching Assistant at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and
Human Rights, and was originally published in the International Review of the Red Cross: Scope of the Law in Armed Conflict


There can be no doubt about the usefulness of this book given its subject matter. After all, armed conflicts are an almost daily reality for humanity and regulating them is more important than ever. We would all love to live in a world without armed conflicts, with no need for international humanitarian law (IHL), but one need only look at what is happening in Syria or South Sudan to realize that such a world is a utopia. This is why continuous efforts are needed to promote and develop this body of law in order to make it more effective and enhance the protection it affords. In publishing this book, Jean D’Aspremont and Jérôme de Hemptinne contribute to such efforts. Given the scarcity of francophone literature in IHL, this book fills also a “gap” in that sense, even if Principes de droit des conflits armés by Eric David remains a very valuable and outstanding contribution to the field. Droit international humanitaire has already been reviewed elsewhere by Professor Julia Grignon; without repeating the points already highlighted there, this appraisal will briefly address both the format and the content of the book.

In terms of format, there are several noteworthy features. Overall, the book is easy to read and flows well, despite a few typos. The authors write in simple language, making the book easy to follow and understand. The decision to organize the book into themes rather than having a linear description of IHL is useful and user-friendly, but also less instructive. It is likely to suit readers who are interested in a specific aspect of IHL. However, despite the introduction and the fact that the fourteen themes cover the essential points, it is less instructive for those who need to grasp the structure and the background of the subject matter before getting into the more in-depth discussions on specific topics. Despite these slight issues, the book remains very useful for any type of audience, including academia, practitioners and military lawyers.

The summary and the bibliography at the end of each chapter are unquestionably useful.2 The summary gives an overview of the issues addressed in the chapter, and the bibliography enables readers to pursue their research on a specific topic. Not to be overlooked is the decision to include a final chapter that deals with conclusions and future prospects, which gives the reader not just a general summary of the book, but also – and above all – a sense of the main issues concerning each theme therein.

In terms of content, a notable feature of the book is the fact that all the themes are addressed by means of rich discussion, drawing on legal opinion and theory (particularly in the reference documents of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the “guardian” of IHL) as well as case law. The authors also go further than simply describing the rules; they do not hesitate to take a stand on certain “burning issues” (see below).

The aim of this review is not to discuss each of the particular themes covered in the book, but rather to point out a few themes that the authors have selected which may give rise to some interesting conversations on the effectiveness of IHL.

Download the full review here