International Humanitarian Law Issues In A Potential War In Iraq

A potential U.S.-led military action against Iraq would likely have profound humanitarian consequences for the Iraqi civilian population. Consistent with our established policy, Human Rights Watch takes no position on the legality or appropriateness of such a war. Yet we have concerns with regard to the manner in which it may be conducted. This briefing paper addresses some of the key issues that may arise under international humanitarian law (IHL), also known as the law of armed conflict, with respect to the duty of all warring parties to protect civilians and other non-combatants. These include the use of human shields, the use of weapons of mass destruction, concerns about urban combat, attacks on civilian morale, attacks on dual-use facilities, targeting decisions (target identification and proportionality), the use of certain conventional weapons, the duties of an occupying power, and transparency in the conduct of military operations.