IRRC No. 303

The role of Gustave Moynier in the founding of the Institute of International Law (1873) — The War in the Balkans (1857–1878) The Manual of the Laws of War (1880)

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The Franco-Prussian War of 1870 had shown just how difficult it was to ensure respect for international law during actual fighting. Mutual accusations of violations of the Geneva Convention, or more generally of the customary laws of war, showed that neither the scope of humanitarian law nor the dissemination of its principles had been sufficient to avert excesses by the combatants. The protection of medical services and of the wounded should remain independent of the conduct of hostilities. But violations of the law of war, whether real or imagined, inevitably undermine the implementation of the Convention. Public opinion (quickly aroused), the press (always keen on shoring up the spirit of resistance), and governments themselves never miss an opportunity to highlight or exaggerate criminal acts committed by the adversary and to make a blanket condemnation of all enemy combatants.

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