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Mixing Apples and Hand Grenades The Logical Limit of Applying Human Rights Norms to Armed Conflict

In: Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies
Author: Geoffrey Corn
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Abstract

One of the most complex contemporary debates related to the regulation of armed conflict is the relationship between international humanitarian law (or the law of armed conflict) and international human rights law. Since human rights experts first began advocating for the complementary application of these two bodies of law, there has been a steady march of human rights application into an area formerly subject to the exclusive regulation of the law of armed conflict (LOAC). While the legal aspects of this debate are both complex and fascinating, like all areas of conflict regulation the outcome must ultimately produce guidelines that can be translated into an effective operational framework for war-fighters. In an era of an already complex and often confused battle space, there can be little tolerance for adding complexity and confusion to the rules that war-fighters must apply in the execution of their missions. Instead, clarity is essential to aid them in navigating this complexity. This article will explore this debate from a military operational perspective. It asserts the invalidity of extreme views in this complementarity debate, and that the inevitable invocation of human rights obligations in the context of armed conflict necessitates a careful assessment of where symmetry between these two sources of law is operationally logical and where that logic dissipates.

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