In conflicts across the globe, governments and armed groups routinely attack civilians and commit war crimes and terrible abuses of human rights.
And yet, even in war there are rules that all sides are legally bound to obey. International humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the laws of armed conflict or the laws of war, has developed in order to mitigate the effects of such conflict. It limits the means and methods of conducting military operations. Its rules oblige combatants to spare civilians and those who no longer participate in hostilities, such as soldiers who have been wounded or have surrendered. IHL applies only during armed conflict; human rights law applies in war and peace.
But powerful nations have shown a sinister willingness to manipulate international institutions or apply double standards, often arming forces known to commit mass abuses while disclaiming responsibility for the carnage.
Although international organisations such as the Unite