Liis: Intermational Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law (IHRL)

At first, it might be hard to see the differences between these two laws. It is therefore not surprising that, while very different in formulation, the essence of some of the rules is similar, if not identical. On the other hand, rules of IHL deal with many issues what are outside the purview of IHRL, such as the conduct of hostilities, combatant and prisoner of war status and the protection of the red cross and red crescent emblems. Similarly, IHRL deals with aspects of life in peacetime that are not regulated by IHL, such as freedom of the press, the right to assembly, to vote and to strike.

 International Humanitarian Law (IHL) is a set of rules which are specifically intended to solve humanitarian problems, directly arising from armed conflicts. It protects persons and property that are, or may be, affected by an armed conflict and limits the rights of the parties to choose theirs methods and means of warfare. IHL main treaty sources are four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols I and II (1977).

 International Human Rights Law is a set of international rules on the basis of which individuals and groups can expect and claim for certain behavior or benefits from governments. Human rights are inherent entitlements which belong to every person as a consequence of being human. IHRL main treaty sources are the International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966), as well as Conventions on Genocide (1948), Racial Discrimination (1965), Discrimination Against Women (1979), Torture (1984) and Rights of the Child (1989).

 Because IHL deals with an exceptional situation- armed conflict- it is applicable only in times of armed conflict. But in principle, IHRL applies at all times, both in peacetime and in war. However, some IHRL treaties permit governments to derogate from certain rights in situations of public emergency, threatening the life of the nation. Even though, certain human rights are never derogable, such as the right to life, prohibition of torture or inhuman treatment, slavery and retroactive criminal laws.

 The laws bind different actors. IHL binds all actors to an armed conflict, where it must be observed by the states involved or by the government and groups fighting. On the other hand, IHRL lays down rules binding governments in their relations with individuals.


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