Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Research Handbook on International Conflict and Security Law

Jus ad Bellum, Jus in Bello and Jus post Bellum

Research Handbooks in International Law series

Edited by Nigel White and Christian Henderson

This innovative Research Handbook brings together leading international law scholars from around the world to discuss and highlight the contemporary debate regarding issues of conflict prevention and the legality of resorting to the use of armed force through to those arising during an armed conflict and in the phase between conflict and peace.

Chapter 13: International humanitarian law and human rights law

Matthew Happold

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


The nature of the relationship between international humanitarian law and international human rights law remains a vexed one. In recent years, human rights lawyers and activists have sought to apply human rights norms to military conduct in international and internal conflicts, and during belligerent occupations. With varying degrees of success, complainants have brought their cases before international tribunals, such as the European Court of Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights, and to national courts able to apply international human rights standards. Although there exist situations falling within a ‘grey zone’ between peace and war where it can be unclear what law applies, this development has occurred largely because forums exist to hear human rights claims, whereas they do not for persons claiming individual redress for violations of international humanitarian law. However, human rights norms have also been seen as more restrictive: as placing greater constraints on states’ freedom to conduct hostilities, preventively detain, and administer occupied territories. It is for this reason that some states have resisted attempts to extend the reach of international human rights law into areas traditionally seen as governed by international humanitarian law. This chapter will examine the relationship between those two bodies of law. It will seek to reprise the extensive debates on the subject and, in the light of recent developments, to present some conclusions. It will be argued that principles have now developed to govern the relationship between the two bodies of law.

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