International Humanitarian Law ICRC. humanitarian law forms a major part of public international law (see opposite) and comprises the rules which, in times of armed conflict, seek to protect people who are not or are no longer taking part in the hostilities and to restrict the methods and means of warfare employed. More precisely, what the ICRC means by international humanitarian law applicable in armed conflicts is an 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 restrict the right of the parties to a conflict to use the methods and means of warfare of their choice and protect people and property affected or liable to be affected by the conflict (see Q3, Q6, and Q17, which provide useful additional information). International Humanitarian Law ICRC
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. People who do not or can no longer take part in the hostilities are entitled to respect for their lives and for their physical and mental integrity. Such people must in all circumstances be protected and treated with humanity, without any unfavorable distinction whatever. It is forbidden to kill or wound an adversary who surrenders or who can no longer take part in the fighting. International Humanitarian Law ICRC.
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.