Paper: IHL and IHRL Work Together to Protect Rights of Civilians

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July 24, 2012

International human rights law (IHRL), recognized by treaties such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and international humanitarian law (IHL), which applies to armed conflict situations, share the responsibility of protecting the economic, social and cultural rights of people caught in an armed conflict, says a June 2012 paper published in the Electronic Journal of International Studies (REEI). After World War II, IHRL and IHL were initially treated as two distinct bodies of law, applicable in different situations.  But Interactions between International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law for the protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights says human rights advocates need not rely on only one legal framework to protect the rights of civilians in trapped in harm’s way.

“There is no going back to a complete separation of the two,” the paper says, as both IHL and IHRL “constantly interact in a relation of synergy or norms.” These norms play a key role in how the legal provisions are understood and applied during armed conflict.  Examples of these implications include protecting socioeconomic rights of civilians such as education, health, food and property/housing, especially “when war and occupation strike across the fabric of life of the entire population.”

REEI is published by the Spanish Association of Professors of International Law and International Relations.