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The right to life in armed conflict: does international humanitarian law provide all the answers?

31-12-2006 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 864, by Louise Doswald-Beck

This article describes the relevant interpretation of the right to life by human rights treaty bodies and analyses how this might influence the law relating to the use of force in armed conflicts and occupations where international humanitarian law is unclear.

   

Louise Doswald-Beck
is Professor at the Graduate Institute for International Relations in   Geneva, Director of the University Centre for International Humanitarian Law 

 
Abstract 
This article describes the relevant interpretation of the right to life by human rights treaty bodies and analyses how this might influence the law relating to the use of force in armed conflicts and occupations where international humanitarian law is unclear. The concurrent applicability of international humanitarian law and human rights law to hostilities in armed conflict does not mean that the right to life must, in all situations, be interpreted in accordance with the provisions of international humanitarian law. The author submits that the human rights law relating to the right to life is suitable to supplement the rules of international humanitarian law relating to the use of force for non-international conflicts and occupation, as well as the law relating to civilians taking a ‘‘direct part in hostilities’’. Finally, by making reference to the traditional prohibition of assassination, the author concludes that the application of human rights law in these situations would not undermine the spirit of international humanitarian law.  

   
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