Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Harry M. Rhea
War crimes are serious violations of international humanitarian law during an armed conflict. Armed conflicts may be either international or internal (noninternational). International armed conflicts are between two or more states, whereas internal armed conflicts occur within one state (e.g., a civil war). International humanitarian law, which is also referred to as the law of war, developed over many centuries through customary international law (i.e., law established from customs) rather than conventional international law (i.e., law established by international treaties ratified by states). Historically, international humanitarian law is based on three principles that govern the conduct of military personnel during armed conflicts. The first principle is necessity, which states that what is necessary to achieve a military objective may be done. The second principle is humanity, which states that acts that cause unnecessary harm and suffering are unlawful. Whereas the principle of necessity states what may be done to achieve ...