IHL contains specific legal provisions and criteria determining situations to which it applies, as well as the extent of the personal, temporal and geographical scopes of application. To determine whether IHL applies to any given situation, an objective assessment has to be conducted in line with those legal provisions and criteria, based on facts on the ground in the circumstances prevailing at the time.



Application of the Conventions and Protocols

    GCI, 2 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCI, 5 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCII, 2 (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCII, 4  (see ICRC updated Commentary)

    GCIII, 2 

    GCIII, 5

    GCIV, 2

    GCIV, 6

    PI, 1

    PI, 3

    PII, 1

    PII, 2


Situations of application :

International Law Commission, Articles on State Responsibility [Part A., Art 8 and Commentary]

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Tadic [Part A., paras 67-70 and 96; Part E., paras 37-100]

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Boskoski

ICTR, The Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu [Part A., para. 601]

Belgium and Brazil, Explanations of Vote on Protocol II [Part B.]

United States, United States v. Noriega [Part B. II. A.]

United States, Status and Treatment of Detainees Held in Guantanamo Naval Base [Part I and Part II]

South Africa, Sagarius and Others

South Africa, S. v. Petane

ICRC, The Challenges of Contemporary Armed Conflicts

United States, The September 11 2001 Attacks

United States, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld

Iran, Victim of Cyber warfare

South Sudan: Medical Care Under Fire

ICRC, International Humanitarian Law and the challenges of contemporary armed conflicts in 2015 [paras 33, 45, 50, 52, 97, 101, 105]

Israel/Palestine, Operation Protective Edge (Gaza, 13 June - 26 August 2014)

Colombia Peace Agreement

Somalia/Kenya, Al-Shabab Attacks

US, Combatant Immunity and Recognition of belligerency

Personal scope of application :

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Tadic [Part A., para. 81; Part C., paras 163-169]

ICTR, The Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu [Part A., para. 629; Part B., paras 425-446]

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Mrksic and Sljivancanin [Part B., paras 71-74]

US, Combatant Immunity and Recognition of belligerency

Temporal scope of application :

The Prosecutor v. Tadic [Part A., paras 67-6; Part E., para. 100; Part E.]

ICTY, The Prosecutor v. Boskoski [Paras 239-291]

ICJ/Israel, Separation Wall/Security Fence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [Part A., para. 125]

Geographical scope of application :

ICTR, The Prosecutor v. Jean-Paul Akayesu [Part A., para. 635]

United Kingdom, The Case of Serdar Mohammed (Court of Appeal and Supreme Court Judgments)


 ARY Vaughn A., “Concluding Hostilities: Humanitarian Provisions in Cease-Fire Agreements”, in Military Law Review, Vol. 148, 1995, pp. 186-273
CARILLO-SUÀREZ Arturo, “Hors de Logique: Contemporary Issues in International Humanitarian Law as Applied to Internal Armed Conflict”, in American University International Law Review, Vol. 15/1, 1999, pp. 1-150.
DAHL Arne Willy & SANDBU Magnus, “The Threshold of Armed Conflict”, in Revue de droit militaire et de droit de la guerre, Vol. 3-4, No. 45, 2006, pp. 369-388
DINSTEIN Yoram, “The Initiation, Suspension and Termination of War”, in SCHMITT Michael N. (ed.), International Law Across the Spectrum of Conflict, Newport, R.I., 2000, pp. 131-159
FISCHER Miles P., “Legal Issues Surrounding Guantánamo Bay: Essay: Applicability of the Geneva Conventions to “Armed Conflict” in the War on Terror”, in Fordham International Law Journal, Vol. 30, No. 3, February 2007, pp. 509-534.
GREENWOOD Christopher, “Scope of Application of Humanitarian Law”, in FLECK Dieter (ed.), Handbook of Humanitarian Law, Oxford, OUP, 2nd ed., 2008, pp. 201-263.
GAVSHON Daniela, “The Applicability of IHL in Mixed Situations of Disaster and Conflict”, in Journal of Conflict and Security Law, Vol. 14, No. 2, 2010, pp. 243-263
KING Faiza Patel & SWAAK-GOLDMAN Olivia, “The Applicability of International Humanitarian Law to the ‘War against Terrorism’”, in Hague Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 15, 2002, pp. 39-49.
KRESS Klaus, “Some Reflections on the International Legal Framework Governing Transnational Armed Conflicts”, in Journal of Conflict & Security Law, Vol. 15, Issue 2, 2010, pp. 245-274.
KWAKWA Edward K., The International Law of Armed Conflict: Personal and Material Fields of Application, Dordrecht, Kluwer, 1992, 208 pp.
O’CONNELL Mary Ellen, Defining Armed Conflict”, in Journal of Conflict & Security Law, Vol. 13, No. 3, 2008, pp. 393-400
SASSÒLI Marco, “The Legal Qualification of the Conflicts in the former Yugoslavia: Double Standards or New Horizons for International Humanitarian Law?”, in WANG Tieya & YEE Sienho (eds), International Law in the Post-Cold War World: Essays in Memory of Li Haopei, Routledge, London, 2001, pp. 307-333
SCHINDLER Dietrich, “The Different Types of Armed Conflicts According to the Geneva Conventions and Protocols”, in Collected Courses, Vol. 163, 1979, pp. 119-163.
SOLF Waldemar A., “Problems with the Application of Norms Governing Interstate Armed Conflict to Non-International Armed Conflict”, in Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 13, 1983, pp. 323-326.
THAHZIB-LIE Bahia & SWAAK-GOLDMAN Olivia, “Determining the Threshold for the Application of International Humanitarian Law”, in LIJNZAAD Liesbeth, VAN SAMBEEK Johanna & TAHZIB-LIE Bahia (eds), Making the Voice of Humanity Heard, Leiden/Boston, M. Nijhoff, 2004, pp. 239-253
VITE Sylvain, “Typology of Armed Conflicts in International Humanitarian Law: Legal Concepts and Actual Situations”, in IRRC, Vol. 91, No. 873, March 2009, pp. 69-94

Further reading

MEYROWITZ Henri, “Une révolution inaperçue : l’article 49(2) du Protocole additionnel I aux Conventions de Genève de 1949”, in Oesterreichische Zeitschrift für öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht, Vol. 32, 1981, pp. 29-57