What is the difference between IHL and IHRL?


IHL and IHRL are two distinct branches of international law that deal with different aspects of human rights, and they have certain key differences. Here’s an overview of each:

  1. International Humanitarian Law (IHL):
    International Humanitarian Law, also known as the Law of Armed Conflict or the Law of War, is a body of international law that governs the conduct of armed conflicts. Its primary purpose is to protect individuals who are not or are no longer taking part in hostilities and to limit the means and methods of warfare. IHL applies in times of armed conflict, whether international (between states) or non-international (within the territory of a state). It is primarily concerned with regulating the conduct of armed forces and ensuring the humane treatment of civilians and other non-combatants during armed conflicts. IHL is enshrined in various treaties and conventions, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their Additional Protocols.
  2. International Human Rights Law (IHRL):
    International Human Rights Law is a body of international law that focuses on the protection and promotion of human rights at a broader scope, encompassing situations both in times of peace and during armed conflicts. IHRL protects individuals’ rights regardless of their nationality or the presence of an armed conflict. It includes a wide range of rights, such as the right to life, liberty, and security of person, the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and many others. IHRL is based on a set of international treaties, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, among others.

Key Differences:

  1. Applicability: IHL applies specifically during armed conflicts, whereas IHRL applies during both peacetime and armed conflicts.
  2. Scope of Protection: IHL primarily focuses on the protection of individuals in the context of armed conflicts, including combatants, prisoners of war, and civilians affected by the conflict. IHRL, on the other hand, provides broader protection of human rights, encompassing civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights in various contexts.
  3. Legal Framework: IHL is primarily based on treaties specifically addressing armed conflicts, such as the Geneva Conventions, while IHRL is based on a broader range of treaties and customary international law that address human rights in general.
  4. Subjects of Law: IHL primarily governs the behavior of states and armed forces during armed conflicts, while IHRL applies to both state and non-state actors and individuals.

It’s important to note that although IHL and IHRL are distinct, they are interconnected in certain ways. For instance, during armed conflicts, both branches of law can be applicable simultaneously, and IHRL can complement and reinforce certain protections provided by IHL.

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