The problem with international humanitarian law: Distinguishing targets in armed conflict
The main object of international humanitarian law (IHL) is the amelioration of the effect of armed conflict on the populace. It seeks to accomplish this by establishing rules that ensure that objects the destruction of which will not give military advantage e are protected; thus, such objects are not to be targeted or destroyed. International Humanitarian Law thus requires parties to the conflict to distinguish these objects, and not to attack them. The problem in the application of this rule is in both the blurring of the nature of the conflict, the military or non-military character of persons involved in the conflict and, the deceitful blurring of the character of objects and the blatant disrespect of this rule. In this paper, we adopt the doctrinal research method which is a legal research approach. The purpose of this paper is to manifest the problem of the application of the principle of distinction; and how it affects the implementation of international humanitarian law. The paper finds that States in armed conflict have violated the principle of distinction as a war strategy; but in contemporary conflicts, the advancement in technological warfare has made it even impossible to apply this very essential rule of IHL. The paper concludes by suggesting ways to curb these affronts, thereby making international humanitarian law more effective.
Keywords: Distinction, armed conflict, attack, proportionality and international humanitarian law (IHL)