Research Handbooks in Human Rights series
Edited by Robert Kolb and Gloria Gaggioli
Chapter 5: The relationship between international human rights and humanitarian law: an overview
The trend towards fragmentation and compartmentalization of particular sectoral and functional fields of international law is but a reflection of the diversification of globalized society; such fields of law have become purportedly self-contained, whether in substantive, procedural or institutional terms, which raises the problem of fragmentation of international law. A major debate today, therefore, revolves around whether one can still refer to a comprehensive and uniform system of general international law in the face of the development of various subsets of norms. Yet alongside fragmentation, there is a very visible process of reconciliation – and paradoxically the greater the degree of specialization and the more claims to self- containment, the greater is the trend towards permeability between different fields of law. Thus we find a considerable literature on the links which are being forged, not only between human rights and humanitarian law, but also with refugee law, disarmament or arms control, environmental law and international peace and security – all areas which in the past were hermetically sealed off from one another. In part, this is due to the creation of a general or public interest domain – an international public policy or ordre public – which includes protection of the individual, hence requiring coherent, across-the-board, holistic responses. This leads us to the need not only for conflict rules but also for the application of underlying substantive rules to bridge these different areas, including notions of legitimacy, finalities and essential values. There are of course important collisions and tensions between public order norms,
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