Mélange du Mercredi/International Law & Armed Conflict: Fundamental Principles & Contemporary Challenges in the Law of War

Welcome to Mélange du Mercredi, our weekly book review courtesy of our friends over at the International Review of the Red Cross. Each week, we highlight one of the latest and greatest in reading, film and other scholarly resources, focusing on a variety of issues pertaining to international humanitarian law. And while we'll start off highlighting resources mentioned in the Review, if you have other suggestions , or would like to submit a post on something you feel our readers will also enjoy, we're happy to include those as well. Just email Editor Niki Clark

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International Law & Armed Conflict: Fundamental Principles & Contemporary Challenges in the Law of War by Laurie R. Blanks and Gregory P. Noone

Review written by Anne Quintin, Teaching Assistant at the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, and PhD Candidate at the University of Geneva. 

Knowledge of law is an essential condition for its effective application …: man should be made familiar from childhood with the great principles of humanity and civilization, so that they may become deeply rooted in his consciousness.
— Jean Pictet

Many will readily agree with Jean Pictet that in-depth knowledge of international humanitarian law (IHL) – also often referred to as the law of armed conflict (LOAC) or the laws of war – is necessary for lawyers, members of the armed  forces, humanitarian practitioners and others involved in or working on issues related to armed conflicts. Few will generally advocate for a broad, non-targeted dissemination among the public at large. And yet, some degree of understanding of the basic rules and principles applicable in situations of armed conflict may also be valuable for anyone interested in world politics and international affairs. What is the nature of the conflict in Afghanistan today, and why does that matter? Is the Islamic State an organized armed group? How does the law protect the civilian population in Syria or in the Central African Republic? Are chemical weapons prohibited, and if so, how? These are only some of the questions that any well-informed citizen may ask on a daily basis, and IHL provides the answers to all of them.

This being said, IHL remains a complex body of law, and the appropriate amount of information one needs to receive to answer such questions will vary greatly depending on the audience’s profile and the direct relevance of IHL for their respective professions. For that reason, very few publications manage to address a broad range of audiences at once. Here, Laurie Blank and Greg Noone have actually succeeded in the almost impossible task of offering an IHL textbook which both experts and laypersons will find worthwhile. International Law and Armed Conflict: Fundamental Principles and Contemporary Challenges in the Law of War is a welcome new resource on IHL that anyone interested in learning more about this body of law should have within reach on their bookshelves.

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