Principles of International Humanitarian Law
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Principles of International Humanitarian Law

Jonathan Crowe and Kylie Weston-Scheuber

This book provides a clear and concise explanation of the central principles of international humanitarian law (or the law of armed conflict) while situating them in a broader philosophical, ethical and legal context.
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Chapter 6: Humanitarianism and human rights

Jonathan Crowe and Kylie Weston-Scheuber


International humanitarian law and international human rights law have much in common. Both fields of law emphasise the basic values of humanity. Both also assume a cosmopolitan moral outlook of the type discussed in Chapter 1 in relation to limits on armed conflict. However, there are also some important distinctions between the two fields. First, international humanitarian law only operates in the context of an armed conflict, whereas international human rights law is more general in scope. Second, international humanitarian law is much older than international human rights law. The former can be traced to Ancient Greek and Roman times and was first formalised during the Middle Ages. The latter, by contrast, has largely arisen only since 1945. A third difference is that international human rights law tends to be significantly more aspirational than international humanitarian law. We saw in Chapter 1 that humanitarianism is primarily concerned with curbing the slide into absolute warfare. International humanitarian law therefore focuses on only the most basic components of human welfare, rather than aiming at a fuller conception of human flourishing.

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