What Is a War Crime?

For almost as long as there has been the war, attempts have been made to regulate its conduct. However, it took until the 20th century for the legal concept of “war crime” to emerge. Thanks to a series of multilateral treaties, including the Geneva Conventions, military and political leaders can now be prosecuted when they commit atrocities ranging from torture to the targeting of civilians.

Even in ancient times, warfare was rarely fought completely without limits. Aristotle, for example, defined his parameters for a “just war”. And, although fighting could be brutal between Greek city-states, enemy soldiers usually gave each other a proper burial.

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