International law plays a central role in the protection of civilians in armed conflict, and both international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) establish important principles and rules. This session will provide an introduction to the application of IHL and IHRL to situations of armed conflict, looking at fundamental issues including the circumstances in which IHRL applies, who has rights and obligations under IHRL, derogation from treaty obligations, the question of co-application, and the extraterritorial application of human rights. The session aimed to provide participants with the basic knowledge necessary to follow subsequent learning sessions focusing on current humanitarian crises.
In particular, the session addressed the following questions:
- Under what circumstances does IHRL apply? How does this differ from the applicability of IHL?
- Who has rights under IHL and IHRL? Who has obligations under IHL and IHRL? Who can bring a claim for violations of IHL and IHRL? Who may be held liable for violations of IHL and IHRL?
- What is derogation from treaty obligations, and under what circumstances may it be invoked?
- Do human rights obligations apply outside the territory of a state - in other words, is there extraterritorial applicability of IHRL?
- If IHL and IHRL both address the same type of situations – for instance, detention or the use of lethal force – how do we know which body of law to apply? What is the lex specialis principle that is often cited in this context?
- What are the practical consequences of the current debates concerning the relationship between IHL and IHRL, in particular the legal and operational issues resulting from co-application of the two frameworks?