N: 1. – international (adj): 1780, coined by Jeremy Bentham from inter- “between” + national (adj.). In the phrase international jurisprudence.
– humanitarian (adj): As a noun by 1794 in the theological sense “one who affirms the humanity of Christ but denies his pre-existence and divinity,” from human (adj.) + suffix from unitarian, etc. By 1834 as “one who professes the creed that a person’s highest duty is to advance the welfare of the human race,” but the closely allied sense “philanthropist, one who advocates or practices human action to solve social problems” (1842), originally was disparaging, with a suggestion of excess. Compare humanism.
As an adjective by 1834 in the theological sense “affirming the humanity or human nature of Christ;” by 1855 as “having regard for the broad interests of humanity.”
– law (n): Old English lagu (plural laga, combining form lah-) “ordinance, rule prescribed by authority, regulation; district governed by the same laws;” also sometimes “right, legal privilege,” from Old Norse *lagu “law,” collective plural of lag “layer, measure, stroke,” literally “something laid down, that which is fixed or set” from Proto-Germanic *lagam “put, lay,” from PIE root *legh- “to lie, lay” (from PIE root *legh- “to lie down, lay”). Identical with lay (n.2) as “that which is set or established.”
2. International humanitarian law is a set of rules which seek, for humanitarian reasons, to limit the effects of armed conflict. It protects persons who are not or are no longer participating in the hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. International humanitarian law is also known as the law of war or the law of armed conflict.
3. International humanitarian law is part of international law, which is the body of rules governing relations between States. International law is contained in agreements between States – treaties or conventions –, in customary rules, which consist of State practise considered by them as legally binding, and in general principles.
International humanitarian law applies to armed conflicts. It does not regulate whether a State may actually use force; this is governed by an important, but distinct, part of international law set out in the United Nations Charter.