Humanity in War

Introduction to International Humanitarian Law: A Primer for Professionals

people talk during IHL law workshop

The American Red Cross offers a free one-day instructor-led course designed to train field and headquarters personnel and interested professionals to recognize and understand situations where international humanitarian law might be applicable.

Through a hands-on approach, utilizing group activities, class discussion and compelling multimedia, this course prepares participants to recognize key concepts in international humanitarian law, including:

  • The Types of Armed Conflict
  • The Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocols
  • Fundamental Principles and Protections for Persons and Objects
  • Distinction Between Combatants and Civilians
  • Civilian Direct Participation in Hostilities
  • Role of the Red Cross and Other Humanitarian Organizations in Armed Conflict

Continuing Legal Education (CLE) credits are available for a fee (government discount available, as well as a need-based fee waiver). The course is accredited for CLE in Virginia, Pennsylvania and California for 5.5 to 6.0 credit hours. These credits are accepted by a number of other states’ bar associations.

The course is regularly held at 2025 E Street NW Washington, DC. To apply please email us at, for more information please visit

Little Syrian girl refugee

Limiting the Impact of War

International humanitarian law (IHL) 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 hostilities and restricts the means and methods of warfare. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols provide the foundation for this legal regime. IHL is also known as the "law of war" or the "law of armed conflict" (LoAC).
Students reading about IHL

IHL for Young People

Looking for exciting and rewarding opportunities to raise awareness about important global issues in your community? The American Red Cross works to empower and mobilize youth through our national peer-to-peer IHL Action Campaign and simulation based educational programs. Learn about the rules of war and utilize your skills to join our powerful mission of protecting vulnerable populations and strengthen the rule of law. Take a closer look and see how you can get involved.
ihl professionals at table

Resources for Law and Policy Professionals

As a leader in the dissemination of international humanitarian law within the United States, the American Red Cross offers humanitarian professionals in all capacities the tools they need to learn about and apply the law in practice. Whether you are looking for court cases, treaties, factsheets, or scholarly articles, our database of featured resources offer a diverse range of reference materials relevant to work in field. Make the American Red Cross your one-stop-shop for all of your professional IHL needs.
Class of Red Cross people

Resources for Educators

American Red Cross chapters help both adults and youth understand international humanitarian law and its relevance to our daily lives and issues we face as a country. Even in war, there are limits. The Geneva Conventions protect civilians, prisoners of war and wounded soldiers. The American Red Cross helps people in the U.S. understand and respect these laws.

Clara Barton International Humanitarian Law Competition

This simulation-based moot court competition raises awareness about IHL and real world challenges facing IHL practitioners in the field. Participants will explore the application of the law through fictional role playing exercises based on case studies of armed conflict. Competitors will assume various professional roles and accomplish a variety of field assignments to learn about the law in practice, the work of various stakeholders in the field, and cutting edge challenges that the community of practitioners will face in the years ahead.

The IHL Mandate

Clara Barton
Clara Barton, circa 1865 by Mathew Brady, Wash., D.C.

International Humanitarian Law program at the American Red Cross is charged with educating the American public about international humanitarian law.

Founded in the wake of the American Civil War by Clara Barton, known as the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her selfless service providing aid and supplies to sick, wounded, and hungry soldiers irrespective of their allegiance during the conflict, the American Red Cross has a long tradition of supporting the implementation of international humanitarian law and raising awareness of the legal limits in war. Today, the American Red Cross is guided by a Congressional Charter which mandates the organization continue its historic mission working to strengthen the rule of law and alleviate the suffering of victims of disasters and armed conflict wherever they may be found. Read our full mandate.