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?


John Cerone John Cerone is the Paul Martin Senior Professor in International Affairs and Law at the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. He also holds a faculty appointment at The Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (Tufts University). During the 2014-15 academic year, he was the Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at the Raoul Wallenberg Institute and Visiting Chair in Public International Law at Lund University Faculty of Law. In 2009, he was promoted to full professor and awarded tenure at the New England School of Law, where he also served as Director of New England’s Center for International Law & Policy. He teaches Public International Law, International Human Rights Law, International Criminal Law, International Humanitarian Law / the Law of Armed Conflict, and International Organizations.
He has been a fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law and a visiting scholar at the International Criminal Court. He holds a Fulbright Distinguished Chair, and has been a Fulbright scholar at both the Danish Institute for Human Rights and the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
As a practicing international lawyer, Professor Cerone has worked for a number of different intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations, including the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the International Secretariat of Amnesty International, and the International Crisis Group, and has served as a legal adviser to various international criminal courts and tribunals. He also has extensive field experience in conflict and post-conflict environments, such as Afghanistan, Kosovo, Sierra Leone, and East Timor. He has received the President’s Award of the Boston Bar Association for his legal work on Guantanamo Bay issues, which has included representing major international human rights organizations in detainee litigation before US courts and international human rights institutions.
Professor Cerone is the U.S. Member of the International Law Association’s (ILA) International Human Rights Law Committee. He has served as Co-Chair of the Human Rights Interest Group of the American Society of International Law (ASIL), and as Chair of the International Human Rights Section of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS). He is accredited by the United Nations to represent the ASIL before various U.N. bodies. He is an elected member of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law and has served in the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Expert Group on the Law of Occupation. In 2009 he was appointed Special Adviser to the first U.S. delegation to the UN Human Rights Council.
He has lectured on human rights law, the law of armed conflict, and international criminal law at the International Institute of Humanitarian Law (Sanremo), the Inter-American Defense College, the Canadian Forces Staff College, the Swedish Defense University, the Institut International des Droits de l'Homme, and in the ICRC Annual Course, and has been keynote speaker at the US Naval War College. He has taught in over 40 countries across all regions of the globe and is the author of dozens of articles and book chapters on international law, as well as the casebook Public International Law: Cases, Problems, and Texts (with Dinah Shelton and Stephen McCaffrey).

Event host

Elizabeth Holland Elizabeth Holland Consulting Expert on International Humanitarian Law, International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP)


Recording (YouTube - faster loading time)

Recording (Adobe Connect - higher quality)

Session recording - Downloadable audio podcast

Recommended reading

For participants wishing to prepare in advance for the event, we recommend the following sources:

Learning objectives

  • Basic understanding of the main similarities and differences between the two legal frameworks, including the circumstances under which each applies, their jurisdictional scope, and their substantive provisions.
  • Familiarity with the varied (and sometimes directly contradictory) positions adopted by states in regards to the relationship between IHL and IHRL.
  • Awareness of the normative relationship between IHL and IHRL and the application of the often-cited lex specialis principle to this interaction.
  • Familiarity with the debate concerning the extraterritorial application of IHRL during armed conflict.
  • Appreciation of the practical consequences of the different perspectives concerning the engagement between IHL and IHRL.


PHAP members will have the possibility to undergo a two-part assessment after the session as part of the PHAP Continuous Learning Credits framework.

Part 1: Comprehension check

Part 2: Written reflection

To encourage peer learning among members, selected essay responses will also be published on the website, if approved by the writer. As a member, you can comment on the responses and read other members' comments.

Read the written reflections

PHAP Credentialing Program

PHAP Credentialing Program

International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action

This event will help you prepare for the PHAP Credentialing Program certification in International Legal Frameworks for Humanitarian Action.

The event will address domain 2, in particular, segment 2.2 of the certification assessment outline.

Read more about the PHAP Credentialing Program

Upcoming Webinars: