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Protecting Civilians: Human Rights & International Humanitarian Law in the Israel-Palestine Conflict

The Israel-Palestine conflict is a longstanding and deeply complex issue. Amidst the political disputes and historical grievances, it is essential to remember the critical importance of protecting civilians in times of war. Human rights and international humanitarian law (IHL) play a pivotal role in shaping the course of this conflict and, most importantly, in safeguarding the lives of those affected.


Understanding the Basics of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law

Human Rights are the fundamental rights and freedoms to which all individuals are entitled, irrespective of their nationality, race, or other characteristics. They encompass the right to life, liberty, security, and dignity.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) also known as the laws of war, is a set of regulations designed to limit the suffering and devastation caused by armed conflicts. IHL not only safeguards civilians but also restricts the means and methods of warfare.


What are the Principles of International Humanitarian Law?

1) Principle of Distinction:

This requires a clear distinction between combatants and civilians. It obliges parties to avoid targeting civilians and civilian objects.

2) Principle of Proportionality:

This stipulates that the harm caused to civilians or civilian objects must not be excessive in relation to the anticipated military advantage.

3) Protection of Humanitarian Workers:

Humanitarian workers must be safeguarded and allowed to provide critical aid to those affected by conflict.


What Happens if International Humanitarian Law is Broken?

When IHL is violated, there can be serious consequences:

1) Accountability

Those responsible for breaches of IHL may be subject to legal action, including international criminal tribunals. The International Criminal Court in The Hague trials individuals for war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity and crime of aggression.

2) Loss of International Standing

Nations that breach IHL may face diplomatic consequences, such as sanctions and damaged international relations. Russia was expelled from the UN's Human Rights Council and received numerous economic sanctions as a result of its war in Ukraine.

3) Impact on Peace and Reconciliation

Breaking IHL can hinder the path to peace and reconciliation in conflict-affected regions.


What Can Individuals Do to Try to Stop War from Happening?

While preventing conflicts is a complex challenge, individuals can contribute to peace efforts:

1) Advocacy

Raise awareness about the importance of peace and the consequences of war within your community and online. Be an advocate for human rights and speak out about the rise of anti-semitism and Islamophobia.

2) Support Diplomacy

Encourage diplomatic solutions and the involvement of international organisations in resolving conflicts, such as the United Nations.

3) Humanitarian Aid

Contribute to humanitarian organisations that provide relief and support to those affected by war. Organisations like the British Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders respond to emergencies by providing urgent medical care and humanitarian aid. In complicated conflicts like Israel-Palestine, they remain neutral and impartial in order to make no discrimination and provide relief from suffering for all those impacted.

4) Educate

Educate yourself and others about the principles of IHL and human rights, fostering a culture of respect for these fundamental concepts. Learn about the history of current conflicts and what has led to war. Here you can find the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict explained.

5) Political Engagement

Engage with your political representatives to influence government decisions related to war and peace. Write a letter to your local MP to highlight your human rights concerns. This could include asking for a ceasefire or opening humanitarian corridors.

Understanding human rights and International Humanitarian Law is crucial in times of war. These principles serve as a moral compass to protect the most vulnerable and ensure the humane treatment of all, irrespective of the circumstances. While the prevention of war is a global challenge, individual efforts to raise awareness and advocate for peace can make a significant difference in our world.

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