International Humanitarian Law

The technological pace of modern warfare continues to challenge the Laws of War, also known as ‘International Humanitarian Law’ (IHL).

The most notable challenge to IHLs governing warfare is the deployment of new autonomous military technologies designed to operate without human judgement or empathy.

These include drones and cyberattacks, alongside longstanding tactics of forces on the ground obstructing humanitarian organisations from supplying aid.

The Laws of War is a set of rules that take effect within the context of armed conflict (between or within states and non-state actors). They are principally enforced to safeguard civilians and non-combatants, such as citizens and medical personnel as well as religious figures, those who have surrendered and prisoners of war.

The Laws of War provide a framework through which the means of warfare can be restricted to ensure humanitarian principles and ethics are maintained in any conflict zone.

Hence, in striking a balance between military practicalities and humanitarian considerations, the IHLs governing warfare limit the use of military force to what is appropriate. This reduces the opportunities for aggressors to commit excesses that result in disproportionate suffering and harm to civilians, which is generally the consequence of indiscriminate targeting.

Furthermore, IHLs governing warfare also incorporate provisions to outlaw excessive military operations that cause damage to the environment.

IHL is enforced by the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its tribunals, which are tasked with prosecuting violators and offenders on behalf of the international community.

Stoke White’s work on The Laws of War

Our firm has a history of submitting cases against perpetrators of Laws of War violations. Stoke White is primarily concerned with abuses impacting non-combatants.

At Stoke White, we believe in upholding the rule of law, even in conflict zones. The Laws of War offer the only vital international framework for the current governance of parties in an armed conflict.

In a time when civilians and those without a combat functions are constantly impacted and even targeted, when torture is rampant and rape is used as a stratagem of war, we believe it is crucial that this jurisprudence is more vigorously applied.

To this end, our firm has a history of submitting cases against perpetrators of Laws of War violations.

Since Stoke White is primarily concerned with abuses of civilians and other non-combatants, we meet with victims, gather evidence and draft complaints in preparation to submit them under the applicable provisions of IHL, to the most relevant international body.

We are committed to helping our clients by pursuing:

• applications under the principle of Universal Jurisdiction
• arrest warrants under Universal Jurisdiction
• the recording of evidence and gathering intelligence on human rights abusers
• investigations into the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity
• litigation against alleged perpetrators of war crimes
• litigating human rights cases

Case Study

In 2019 Stoke White submitted a complaint with evidence to the SO15 unit of the UK’s Metropolitan Police in London and the US Department of Justice on behalf of family members of people who died at the Sana’a funeral attack in Yemen, which was carried out by Saudi-UAE coalition forces on 8th October 2016.

In the attack, 137 civilians were killed. As many as 695 other civilians were severely injured. The attack on the funeral was planned and carried out by government and military officials from the Saudi-UAE led coalition.

Under the Principal of Universal Jurisdiction, Stoke White submitted a list of suspects to the UK’s Metropolitan Police and US’s Department of Justice, following an investigation on the attack.