Lex specialis? Belt and suspenders? The parallel operation of human rights law and the law of armed conflict, and the conundrum of jus ad bellum

Schabas, William A. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7462-4284 (2007) Lex specialis? Belt and suspenders? The parallel operation of human rights law and the law of armed conflict, and the conundrum of jus ad bellum. Israel Law Review, 40 (2) . pp. 592-613. ISSN 0021-2237 [Article]


Two different theories attempt to reconcile problems of application of international human rights law in time of armed conflict, to the extent that there is a potential conflict with norms set out in international humanitarian law. One, posited by the International Court of Justice, presents international humanitarian law as the lex specialis, a kind of prism through which the concept of "arbitrary deprivation of life" (Article 6(1) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) is to be understood in time of armed conflict. In effect, international humanitarian law supplants international human rights law during armed conflict. The other theory, advanced by the Human Rights Committee, views the two bodies of law as additive in effect. Both regimes apply, and the individual benefits from the more favorable one ("belt and suspenders" approach). Both theories profess the fundamental compatibility of the two different legal systems, yet they are predicated upon a method for resolving conflicts between them. Both theories encounter serious problems in their application. The author submits that the difficulty with these attempts to reconcile human rights law and humanitarian law lies with the failure to grasp an underlying distinction: international humanitarian law is built upon neutrality or indifference as to the legality of the war itself. Human rights law, on the other hand, law views war itself as a violation. There is a human right to peace. Because of this fundamental incompatibility of perspective with regard to jus ad bellum, human rights law and international humanitarian law can only be reconciled, as both the International Court of Justice and the Human Rights Committee desire, if human rights law abandons the right to peace and develops an indifference to the jus ad bellum. It too must accept the idea of the acceptability of "collateral" killing of civilians in war, even if the war itself is illegal. The author argues that it is preferable not to attempt to find a neat and seamless relationship between international humanitarian law and international human rights law, in the interests of preserving the pacifist strain within international human rights law.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > School of Law > Law and Politics
Item ID: 7701
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Devika Mohan
Date Deposited: 18 Apr 2011 07:52
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2019 12:20
URI: https://eprints.mdx.ac.uk/id/eprint/7701

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