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Protecting people in war

The idea of international humanitarian law (IHL) is simple: even wars have limits. Also known as the law of war, IHL protects people who are not taking part in the fighting, such as civilians, wounded soldiers and prisoners of war. It also restricts choice of weapons and how they can be used. The best-known of these laws are the Geneva Conventions.

For IHL to be useful in times of war it must be understood during times of peace. Australian Red Cross runs training courses and events for the general public as well as members of the Australian Defence Force, Federal Police, the humanitarian sector and other relevant organisations.

We are also the custodians of the red cross, red crescent and red crystal emblems. Because the emblems need to be instantly recognisable as a symbol of protection during armed conflict, there are strict rules governing their use, including in Australia.

Health care in danger

Violence against health-care workers and the people they seek to help during times of armed conflict and other situations of violence is one of the most serious, yet overlooked, challenges in the world today. Learn more.

Women and war

The laws of war recognise that women face specific threats to their personal security, and may struggle with basic rights, such as access to food, shelter and healthcare. Learn more.

Make nuclear weapons the target

Red Cross, with its objective of alleviating human suffering wherever it may be found, is deeply concerned by the destructive force of nuclear weapons and the immense human suffering they inflict. Learn more.



Photos: Catalina Martin-Chico/COSMOS (health care); Boris Heger/ICRC (arms); AP (nuclear).

The emblems

red cross, red crescent and red crystal

These emblems protect lives: the red cross, red crescent and red crystal. Read more »

Volunteer with IHL

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Learn more about volunteering with your local IHL group.
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IHL magazine

The latest IHL Magazine celebrates and reviews 100 years of Australian Red Cross and international humanitarian law. Download.