Research Handbook on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law
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Research Handbook on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law

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.
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Chapter 21: Universal human rights bodies and international humanitarian law


Protecting people in times of armed conflict is the aim of the Geneva Conventions and their Additional Protocols as well as that of international human rights law (HRL). However, unlike human rights law, international humanitarian law (IHL) does not provide for standing mechanisms monitoring the implementation of its provisions by States parties. Since the end of the Cold War, the UN human rights bodies have started to deal regularly, albeit not systematically, with violations of IHL even though their mandate is focused on HRL, and they have developed several approaches in this regard. This contribution looks at how the UN human rights bodies, in particular the treaty bodies as expert committees monitoring the implementation of the UN human rights conventions, the Human Rights Council as principal intergovernmental body dealing with human rights, and its Special Procedures as independent experts reporting to the Council, presently address IHL and its relationship to HRL. To what extent are the UN human rights bodies ready to explicitly invoke IHL and monitor its implementation? Which are the key IHL issues raised by these bodies? How do they see the relationship between IHL and human rights law? And how can we assess their overall contribution to the monitoring of compliance with IHL? The origin of endeavors of the UN human rights system to look at IHL can be traced back to the late 1960s. In 1967, the Security Council linked HRL and IHL in a resolution on the situation in the Middle East:

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