International humanitarian law forms a major part of public international law and comprises the rules which, in times of armed conflict, seek to protect persons who are not or are no longer taking part in the hostilities, and to restrict the methods and means of warfare employed.
The law is derived from international treaty or customary rules which are specially intended to resolve matters of humanitarian concern arising directly from armed conflicts, whether of an international or non-international nature; for humanitarian reasons those rules 1) restrict the right of the parties to a conflict to use the method or means of warfare of their choice, and 2) protect persons and property affected or liable to be affected by the conflict.
Persons who do not or can no longer take part in the hostilities are entitled to respect for their life and for their physical and mental integrity. Such persons must in all circumstances be protected and treated with humanity, without any unfavourable distinction whatever.
It is forbidden to kill or wound an adversary who surrenders or who can no longer take part in the fighting.
The wounded and sick must be collected and cared for by the party to the conflict which has them in its power. Medical personnel and medical establishments, transports and equipment must be spared. The red cross or red crescent on a white background is the sign protecting such persons and objects and must be respected.
Captured combatants and civilians who find themselves under the authority of the adverse party are entitled to respect for their life, their dignity, their personal rights and their political, religious and other convictions. They must be protected against all acts of violence or reprisal. They are entitled to exchange news with their families and receive aid.
Everyone must enjoy basic judicial guarantees and no one may be held responsible for an act he has not committed. No one may be subjected to physical or mental torture or to cruel or degrading corporal punishment or other treatment.
Neither the parties to the conflict nor members of their armed forces have an unlimited right to choose methods and means of warfare. It is forbidden to use weapons or methods of warfare that are likely to cause unnecessary losses or excessive suffering.
The parties to a conflict must at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants in order to spare the civilian population and civilian property. Neither the civilian population as a whole nor individual civilians may be attacked. Attacks may be made solely against military objectives.