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Refugee law and international humanitarian law: Parallels, lessons and looking ahead - A non-governmental organization's view

30-09-2001 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 843, by Rachel Brett, Eve Lester


Rachel Brett, LL.M.,
is Associate Representative (Human Rights and Refugees) at the Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva, and a fellow of the Human Rights Centre of the University of Essex, United Kingdom. — Eve Lester is an international refugee lawyer. She has worked for several non-governmental organizations and is currently NGO Liaison Officer for UNHCR’s Global Consultations on International Protection. 

There is a conceptual parallel between international refugee law and international humanitarian law. Both originated in the need to address the protection of persons in the hands of a State of which they are not nationals. By contrast, international human rights law was developed to protect persons against abuses by their own State. International humanitarian law and human rights law have grown closer over the years. International humanitarian law has extended its reach into non-international armed conflicts, and human rights law has been recognized as applying to all individuals within the territory or jurisdiction of a State, even if only temporarily, including during times of armed conflict (though some restrictions can be applied to non-nationals and also during times of armed conflict or similar emergency). Similar developments are beginnin g to happen in relation to refugee law, but a radical rethinking is needed.  

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