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The interplay between international humanitarian law and internationalhuman rights law in situations of armed conflict

26-12-2007 Article, International Law Forum, University of Jerusalem, by Cordula Droege

International human rights law and international humanitarian law are traditionally two distinct branches of law, one dealing with the protection of persons from abusive power, the other with the conduct of parties to an armed conflict. Yet, developments in international and national jurisprudence and practice have led to the recognition that these two bodies of law not only share a common humanist ideal of dignity and integrity but overlap substantially in practice.

International human rights law and international humanitarian law are traditionally two distinct branches of law, one dealing with the protection of persons from abusive power, the other with the conduct of parties to an armed conflict. Yet, developments in international and national jurisprudence and practice have led to the recognition that these two bodies of law not only share a common humanist ideal of dignity and integrity but overlap substantially in practice. The most frequent examples are situations of occupation or non-international armed conflicts where human rights law complements the protection provided by humanitarian law.

This article provides an overview of the historical developments that led to the increasing overlap between human rights law and humanitarian law. It then seeks to analyse the ways in which the interplay between human rights law and humanitarian law can work in practice. It argues that two main concepts inform their interaction: The first is complementarity between their norms in the sense that in most cases, especially for the protection of persons in the power of a party to the conflict, they mutually reinforce each other. The second is the principle of lex specialis in the cases of conflict between the norms.

 
     


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