All cultures have evolved rules and mechanisms to regulate armed conflicts and to prevent unnecessary suffering. While the underlying principles are often universal, the rules and the ways of practicing them vary from culture to culture. Such regulations are also not static, but instead have tended to change over time in concordance with the evolution of the State and advances in technology.

The important (Spanish language) study “El derecho internacional humanitario y el orden juridico maya : una perspectiva histórico-cultural” (“International Humanitarian Law and the Mayan Legal Order: A Cultural-Historical Perspective”) has been made available now in the ICRC Library for download. It was authored by Claudia Dary, ICRC, in collaboration with the Latin American Social Sciences Institute (FLACSO) as well as community leaders and specialists in history, anthropology, archaeology, political science and international law.

Relying as much as possible on written indigenous sources, this book offers a historical reading about the way in which wars were fought among the Mayans and offers a unique analysis based on the basic postulates of International Humanitarian Law. Among the many topics explored are: the evolution of warfare from pre-Hispanic times to the present age, practices and warrior codes according to indigenous chronicles, potential gaps between these chronicles and actual conduct, Mayan norms and values today, rebellions and riots, the treatment of prisoners, protection of community resources, relationships between arm-bearers and civilians, and the importance of customary international law.

Please find the book here.