Israel in Lebanon
The Report of the International
Commission to enquire into reported
violations of International Law by
Israel during its invasion of the Lebanon
The Conduct of the War – Introduction
The conduct of war violates most of the precepts by which societies are governed in time of peace. Destruction of property, killing and wounding and imprisonment become the norms governing human relations during armed conflicts. The first reaction of some witnesses and commentators during our enquiry was to exclaim that ‘there is no law in war but to stay alive’. Not only international lawyers will deny this assertion. However, a little thought will lead rapidly to the conclusion that wholly unrestrained violence to persons and property is not the norm in the conduct of war. Those directing the military forces will normally constrain their activities so as to achieve economy and precision in the application of force and avoid the risk of annihilating reprisals. The political leaders will normally seek to avoid the adverse consequences for future peace of unbridled violence and destruction. Alongside these considerations of enlightened self-interest are the humanitarian impulses outraged by the conduct of war, which demand that restraints be placed on inhuman behaviour.
The declared restraints on the conduct of war which result from these different motivations have emerged from various activities: States binding themselves through treaties, the actions of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the United Nations and those of other bodies.
There has arisen from these activities a binding customary international law governing the conduct of war. This law is applicable to the conflict resulting from the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. The legality of the conduct of war is a question wholly separate from the legality of the Israeli invasion itself. The legal standards governing the conduct of war apply regardless of whether Israel was or was not justified in invading Lebanon. More particularly, the following instruments lay down legal standards of conduct:
Hague Rules of Aerial Warfare 1923 correspond, to a great extent, to the customary rules and general principles underlying the conventions on the
law of war on land and sea. .
Geneva Convention IV Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War 1949 signed by Israel, 8 December 1949; ratified, 6 July 1951.
Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict 1954 – signed by Israel, 14 May 1954; ratified, 3 October 1957.
ICRC Draft Rules for the Limitation of the Dangers Incurred by the Civilian Population in Time of War 1956 to a large extent, corresponds to customary international law.
ICRC Resolution on Protection of Civilian Populations against the Dangers of Indiscriminate Warfare 1965 statement of four principles of the international law of armed conflict.
Resolution 2444 (XXIII) of the UN General Assembly, adopted 19 December 1968: Respect for Human Rights in Armed Conflicts declaratory of existing customary international law.
Resolution XXIII adopted by the International Conference on Human Rights, Teheran, 12 May 1968: Human Rights in Armed Conflicts