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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

Research Handbook on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

Research Handbooks in Human Rights series

Edited by Robert Kolb and Gloria Gaggioli

This fascinating Handbook explores the interplay between international human rights law and international humanitarian law, offering expert analysis on the increasingly complex issues surrounding their application in conflict areas across the world.

Chapter 10: Some reflections on the principle of humanity in its wide dimension

Antônio Augusto and Cançado Trindade

Subjects: law - academic, human rights, public international law, politics and public policy, human rights, terrorism and security


In the brief reflections that follow, the principle of humanity will be addressed in its wide dimension, encompassing the whole corpus juris of international protection of the human person, in any circumstances, and particularly in those of great adversity. The principle of humanity, in line with the longstanding thinking of natural law, will then be considered as an emanation of human conscience, projecting itself into conventional as well as customary international law. Attention will then be turned to its presence in the framework of the Law of the United Nations, as well as to its judicial recognition in the case law of contemporary international tribunals. The way will thus be paved for the presentation of my concluding observations on the matter. When one evokes the principle of humanity, there is a tendency to consider it in the framework of International Humanitarian Law. It is beyond doubt that, in this framework, for example, civilians and persons hors de combat are to be treated with humanity. The principle of humane treatment of civilians and persons hors de combat is provided for in the 1949 Geneva Conventions on International Humanitarian Law (common Article 3, and Articles 12(1)/12(1)/13/5 and 27(1)), and their Additional Protocols I (Article 75(1)) and II (Article 4(1)). This principle, moreover, is generally regarded as one of customary International Humanitarian Law. My own understanding is in the sense that the principle of humanity is endowed with an even wider dimension: it applies in the most distinct circumstances,

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