This morning, one of BBC Radio's headlines was that the Sri Lankan government had been accused of war crimes by an international body.
War crimes are defined in the statute that established the International Criminal Court (July 2002), which includes:
A. Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, such as:
1. Willful killing, or causing great suffering or serious injury to body
2. Torture or inhumane treatment
3. Unlawful wanton destruction or appropriation of property
4. Forcing a prisoner of war to serve in the forces of a hostile power
5. Depriving a prisoner of war of a fair trial
6. Unlawful deportation, confinement or transfer
7. Taking hostages
B. The following acts as part of an international conflict:
1. Directing attacks against civilians
2. Directing attacks against humanitarian workers or UN peacekeepers
3. Killing a surrendered combatant
4. Misusing a flag of truce
5. Settlement of occupied territory
6. Deportation of inhabitants of occupied territory
7. Using poison weapons
8. Using civilians as shields
9. Using child soldiers
C. The following acts as part of a non-international conflict:
1. Murder, cruel or degrading treatment and torture
2. Directing attacks against civilians, humanitarian workers or UN
3. Taking hostages
4. Summary execution
6. Rape, sexual slavery, forced prostitution or forced pregnancy
However the court only has jurisdiction over these crimes where they are "part of a plan or policy or as part of a large-scale commission of such crimes".
Scrutinising the items above, I conclude that "war crimes" is pervasive world-wide, unpreventable, and - alas - the Geneva Convention and such other well-meaning treatise are quixotic at best.
As the saying goes, "all is fair in love and war."